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Five new Magistrates and a pony

Five new Magistrates - Wood, Williams, Zerner, Kirkegaard and Rundle - were welcomed by the profession in Brisbane today. Photo: Geoff McLeod

Today was a dream come true for five new Magistrates, in particular Magistrate Ainslie Kirkegaard and her youngest daughter Laura, who now gets a pony.

The five Magistrates, including three Coroners, were welcomed to the Court by the profession in an official ceremony, and they all thanked family and friends on this special and happy occasion.

Magistrate Kirkegaard said “no one could be happier about my appointment than my youngest daughter who is here today”.

“Once in a moment of desperation I promised I would buy her a pony if I ever became a Coroner,” she told the courtroom audience, who broke out in laughter.

“Laura, today, in this room full of credible witnesses, you collect.”

Magistrate Kirkegaard made the transition from family law, starting as an articled clerk at HopgoodGanim, to the Coroner’s office. She noted tongue in cheek that her salary doubled overnight and that her husband’s Danish surname “confounds countless doctors trying to spell it on death certificates every day”.

Magistrate Kirkegaard said today was made even more special by being appointed alongside Magistrate Stephanie Williams and Magistrate Melinda Zerner – who have worked alongside each other in various ways over the past 15 years.

Magistrate Williams said saying that her love for law was a “slow burn” was “putting a little too politely”. After starting as a full-time paralegal at 21 and completing her studies, she was going to pursue “something that truly interested me” such as photography. But a HECS debt, love for stilettoes and eventual love for advocacy changed her mind.

Magistrate Zerner, a former nurse, said her appointment “was truly a full circle moment”. Her impetus to study at age 30 followed the death of a patient in the ward where she was clinical manager.

On the day of the incident, she met a lawyer from Minter Ellison and later had her statement taken. “I decided very quickly I wanted to be on the opposite side of the table and change the MBA I was studying to a juris doctor,” she said.

Magistrate Rundle thanked his family for supporting his studies and was thankful for opportunities from employers over the past 17 years, and particularly the Legal Aid Queensland rural placement scheme which gave him a start in Rockhampton.

He has given back to the profession. Dr Rundle has been a lecturer with CQ University since 2005, lecturing in Bachelor of Laws, Bachelor of Business and Master of Professional Accounting courses.

All his employers have encouraged him to continue to study and teach law.

“To date there has been no greater satisfaction in my career than to practise law in the day, leave the courtroom and teach law in the evening, sharing my knowledge of the practice of law during the day and sharing those advocacy skills that I’ve acquired from legal practice with students who will hopefully become legal practitioners in the future.

“I certainly won’t forget where I come from.”

Magistrate Wood reflected on his career and what today meant for him and others who had reached this point. He has served the people of Dalby and the Downs for many years. His firm Edgar & Wood has roots going back to 1899.

“When I first started as a duty lawyer many years ago, I admired the qualities of the various Magistrates that I appeared before in that they were calm, collected, knowledgeable and respectful of me and my absolute inexperience and naivety,” he said.

“In my early days I had thought in the back of my mind, that perhaps one day I would like to develop those qualities to the point where perhaps I could be considered for appointment as a Magistrate. I never considered that to be a realistic possibility,” he said.

“I sit before you today with a profound gratitude and deep sense of honour as I accept this appointment. I am humbled by the trust and confidence placed in me by those involved in the selection process and I am aware of the weighty responsibility that comes with this position.”

Acting Chief Magistrate Gett said the five new appointees took the total number of Magistrates, including Coroners, serving Queensland to 105. He said the addition of the Coroners was the “most significant expansion in over a decade”.

Queensland Law Society President Chloé Kopilović said it was normally “a red letter day” when one or two magistrates were welcomed “but the opportunity to welcome five excellent appointments is particularly noteworthy”.

“It is a day of celebration when leading practitioners with strong local connections accept permanent commissions to this fine Court,” she said.

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