Chief Justice Bowskill took Queensland Law Society members on a bit of a “Cook’s tour” of the legal year at the recent Specialist Accreditation Christmas Breakfast in Brisbane.
After congratulating the Specialist Accreditation graduates on their “enormous achievement and hard work”, The Honourable Chief Justice highlighted the 2023 milestones “following the year of seismic change that was 2022”.
“In a year without the distraction of things like COVID, we have been able to take a look to how we do things, hold them up to light and start to make some changes,” she said. “It has also just been incredibly busy.”
Chief Justice Bowskill said that in January the court “kicked off the year” with Practice Directions and the Commercial List.
For February, she highlighted the special event of the flying of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island flags outside Queensland courts, the retirement of Justice David Jackson and the appointment of Justice Tom Sullivan. She also attended the Australian Law Alliance Queensland Conference which helped shine a light on being mindful about mental health and wellbeing.
In March, the new Class Action PD was introduced.
In April, the court farewelled Justice McMurdo who retired after 20 years as a judge. He was noted as an “outstanding legal scholar”. Justice David Boddice filled that vacancy.
April was an interesting month for the Chief Justice, with media coverage on the Practice Directions relating to pronunciation of names and preferred forms of address.
“If you were to read a certain newspaper, you might think that was the only thing we, or perhaps I, had done this year so was to revise the appearance slips. But of course this Practice Direction was about a lot more than that,” she said.
She clarified it was about inclusion and consultation, with feedback from various professional bodies.
“It may be a small thing … and it may be a small number of people that it directly affects but from what I’ve been told it was a significant thing. Likewise the pronunciation of the protocol included in the Practice Direction has also been warmly welcomed by members of the community,” she said.
June saw the introduction of the Supreme Court Wills and Estate List Practice Direction which was formalised from a previous trial.
The Chief Justice took some “very interesting trips” of her own in June and July, travelling to Papua New Guinea at the invitation of the Chief Justice and attending an inaugural conference in Samoa, helping to foster relations with our Pacific neighbours.
The Pasefika Lawyers Collective (PLC) CPD conference in Samoa was “an excellent event”. Chief Justice Bowskill said the connections with those countries were important on several levels as we faced shared challenges such as geography, isolation and tyranny of distance, and shared goals such as breaking down barriers to access to justice, and addressing climate change.
She said August was one of the “standout months” with the QLS Excellence in Law Awards Gala which was a “positive and inspiring night”.
“They shine a light on solicitors who are doing such wonderful things but are also a reminder that across Queensland there are many more lawyers, who in big ways and small ways every day, are doing wonderful things to protect and maintain the rule of law, help the vulnerable and to provide access to justice.”
In September she warmly welcomed three new judges to the District Court.
In October Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia Susan Kiefel retired after “a remarkable 30 years in judicial office … just an incredible feat”.
At the retirement dinner, Chief Justice Bowskill remarked on three particular elements of the former Chief Justice’s time as leader: certainty and clarity in encouraging the court speaking with one voice; a calm, dignified and strong leadership; and an unerring support for the courts and profession in Queensland.
She also commented on changes in the Magistrates Court with the retirement of three “very experienced” judicial officers, including Magistrate Pirie who was the first woman Torres Strait Islander to become a solicitor and judicial officer, and the appointment of 11 new Magistrates this year.
And although the court year had been a “busy one”, the Chief Justice lamented the “little visible progress” in relation to the court’s digitisation project.
“I would love to be able to stand here and say we are on the cusp of providing the facility of electronic filing but I can’t. All I can say is work is ongoing. It is inevitably a bigger task that one might have otherwise imagined because the workings of the court registry are particularly complex. I have and will certainly to continue to press for this to become a reality as soon as possible.
“Fingers crossed for the next year.”
Chief Justice Bowskill said she had been waiting all year to weave in a quote from Dr Seuss, so she took the opportunity at the event.
“Life’s too short to wake up with regrets. So love the people who treat you right, forgive the ones who don’t and believe that everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it. Nobody said it’d be easy, they just promised it would be worth it.”
“For my part 2023 has been well worth it and I am looking forward to 2024,” she said.