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Former Justice putting on dancing shoes

The Legal Profession Breakfast panel (from left) Margaret McMurdo, Rachael Field, Lionel Hogg and Nadia Bromley. Photo: Natalie Gauld

The Honourable Margaret McMurdo AC is preparing to make “a complete idiot” of herself – all for a great cause, the 2024 Dancing CEOs fundraiser in May.

This was the big reveal at this morning’s Women’s Legal Service Queensland (WLSQ) Legal Profession Breakfast fundraiser which was marking its 10th anniversary.

Panel member Margaret said although previously encouraged to take part, she could not because she was on the court and previous events had conflicted with her husband’s birthday – or that was “her excuse”, she admitted.

“As I approach my 70th birthday, I though ‘oh well’, if I don’t do it now it’s going to be never,” she told the sold-out audience at Brisbane City Hall and online listeners.

“So I’ve put my hand up to dance with Rachael (Dr Field – WQLS Ambassador) for Dancing CEOs for 2024. I can’t dance. I am meeting with my choreographer this afternoon. So it’s going to be very interesting. I might start a blog. We do need to raise $40,000 for financial advisors for all the Women’s Legal Service’s offices.

“These financial advisors have saved millions of dollars for a large number of women, but it’s the old story so many people who need that help, want that help, have been turned away.

“So we are hoping with a major fundraising efforts through Dancing CEOs, and possibly with making a complete idiot of myself, we are going to raise some money.”

Margaret was instrumental in setting up the first Legal Profession Breakfast a decade ago in the Banco Court – on long trestle tables.

Fellow panel member Lionel Hogg, a partner of Gadens and event sponsor, said the impact of first fundraiser and the work of WLQS “should not be underestimated as it sent a signal to everybody” and had been a “tremendous success since then”.

Lionel said “getting and maintaining attention” on advocacy was really difficult but this cause “was not really difficult to get people to focus on”.

“Frankly it was not a particularly difficult sell for me to get other people involved. We’ve always done and believed is you go out and do your best … it’s about the multiplier effect.”

He said 10 years ago, domestic violence was always on the front page of the newspaper but it didn’t have the attention it had now.

“It was on the front page for the wrong reasons,” he said. “Everyone intuitively understands we have to do something. We’ve all got our own priorities but to elevate that, we thought a communal priority would be a good one.”

He said many legal firms were sponsors of the event and had been since the beginning.

This year’s theme was A Legacy of Care and Dr Field agreed that the impact of the breakfast and difference it made “could not be underestimated”.

“One of things this breakfast does is create networks and share information about the works and service,” she said. “The awareness raising is really important but the money side of things is also critical.

“We are very lucky to live in a western liberal democracy that has governments that recognise access to justice is an important issue. We have significant funding from government as an organisation, but it just isn’t enough. It doesn’t meet the need or demand on the service.

“Back in 2012 when we were sitting around and wondering what we could do, Margaret’s fantastic idea of having a breakfast that would bring the profession together, to be united in a voice against domestic violence … that was a really important moment in the history of the organisation.

“It took us down a path of realising we didn’t have to just always put our hand out to government. There were things that we could do and we had the support of the profession to do it.”

Rachael said by talking to people who used the service, she knew how important the event was, leading to initiatives such as the helpline.

“It makes a difference to people who come to our service and even something as simple as the fact our service is in a house and is very welcoming,” she said.

“It is a special environment where women can feel safe and everyone at the service is so welcoming and genuinely committed to justice, and achieving justice for these very vulnerable women and children.”

WLSQ CEO Nadia Bromley said the “big steps and little steps” taken by the people on the panel and those 600 in the room were making a difference for the future.

Nadia said the discretionary funds meant the helpline answered 3000 more calls this year than last year.

“That’s 3000 women who alerted someone, got to speak someone and got to seek help, so that makes a huge difference and changes the lives of literally thousands of women every year, so there is absolutely a need for more change.”

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