DFV advocate Kathleen Simpson wants voices to be heard. So for one awful moment when she woke up unable to hear properly, Kathleen was devastated that those voices would not be heard.
The Principal of DV Lawyer said she was honoured to accept the Dame Quentin Bryce Domestic Violence Prevention Advocate Award at today’s Legal Profession Breakfast in Brisbane.
As Kathleen explained this morning to the City Hall audience, it was “third time lucky” but she thought her luck had run out about three months ago.
“I woke up with deafness and balance issues. It devastated me to think how I was going to continue the work in this space to help leave people their relations safely,” the advocate said.
“I had a three-day trial before His Honour Justice Jarrett, and thankfully he was most understanding. I was facing the prospect of no longer being able to ‘hear her voice’, which was ironic to me.
“Thankfully I recovered, and after six weeks of hospital treatment and having received many well wishes from people and clients. No wonder I had some issues after hearing the terrible things people do in domestic violence relationships, day in and day out.
“I am grateful that I can now again continue this lifesaving work to potentially make a difference.
“People need help. They need good, robust advocacy. They need exceptional leadership to pave the way to help them lead a life free from violence.
“But the situation is worsening, even for those working in this sphere of domestic and family violence, there are crimes that shock us to the core.”
She spoke of the recent murder-suicide of a water polo instructor at a Sydney school.
“No one should have to fear being murdered if they choose to end a relationship,” she said. “My heart absolutely breaks for the family, friends and St Andrew’s community. The ripple effect of domestic violence homicides reaches far and wide.
“It is overwhelming to see the efforts in reform have been paired with new laws coming in and being implemented for coercive control and also the family law sphere, which will no doubt go some way to improve the safety of victim survivors of domestic and family violence.
“I acknowledge and thank the very brave, intelligent people who have advocated for years for these important changes, especially the Women’s Legal Service.
“I have learnt so much from hearing their experiences, and I applaud our judges, magistrates who have acted appropriately and protectively to prevent the vulnerable people and to prevent an escalation of behaviours.
“This award means so much to me, but it also means to a lot to everyone who helped me along my journey and will continue to help.”
Kathleen addressed the Brisbane audience.
Kathleen congratulated the other finalists and also wanted to thank the people who are not usually recognised.
“Most importantly I would like to thank the survivors of domestic and family violence who have trusted me with their stories, their struggles and their hopes,” she said.
“They are the reason why I do what I do and they are the true heroes of this voice. They have showed me incredible courage, resilience and strength in the face of adversity. They have also taught me compassion and kindness.
“Domestic and family violence is a serious and pervasive issue that affects millions of people throughout the world. It’s not only a personal problem but it’s a social problem that requires collective action and responsibility, and we all have a role in preventing it.
“I’m proud to be a member of the Queensland Law Society who promote good law, good lawyers and the public good. I will continue to fight the good fight.”
QLS Past President Kara Thomson, who introduced Dame Quentin at the function, had a similar message as Kathleen, saying “Dame Quentin embodies the ethos that we all have a role to play, by speaking up when we see and hear injustice”.
“As Chair of the taskforce that produced the landmark report, Not Now, Not Ever, she put the spotlight on violence and abuse by listening to the stories of victim-survivors,” Kara said.
“As Dame Quentin has remarked herself, the complex nature of domestic and family violence means resolution is not just a matter of ticking a box, of saying ‘well, we’ve got a policy or legislation in place, so the problem is solved’.
“We must ensure there is a coordinated, powerful, and compassionate response to every incidence of domestic violence and encourage everyone in the community to find the courage to stand up and speak out.”
Dame Quentin thanked Kathleen for her work and shared some thoughts with the audience, saying “the most important tool we have is our voice”.
The other inspiring finalists were Famin Ahmed – Lawyer, MinterEllison; Tracy Bowen – Solicitor, Aboriginal Family Legal Services Queensland; Jason Garrick – Senior Lawyer, Legal Aid Queensland; Lisa O’Neill – Senior Judicial Registrar, Federal Court and Family Court of Australia; and Thelma Schwartz – Principal Legal Officer, Queensland Indigenous Family Violence Legal Service.