Apprenticeship over for new CEO

Incoming QLS CEO Matt Dunn takes on his new role today after many years with the Society. Photos: Geoff McLeod

Incoming Queensland Law Society (QLS) CEO Matt Dunn has at last completed his “apprenticeship”.

Matt begins his first day as CEO today after first starting at QLS in 2005 as research and policy officer for the then CEO after being in private practice.

“This is very much almost the world’s longest apprenticeship,” Matt joked.

“I worked very closely with the CEO of the time Peter Carne, and took care of lots of little bits and pieces and took care of research work and all manner of things,” he explained. “My job was very much like a judge’s associate for the CEO.

“I got a very good understanding of what the CEO’s role was, what he did, how it worked and that was something I was really fortunate to be exposed to quite early on in that point here at the QLS.

“And then my career took that turn towards policy and that was mostly as a result of legislation that was brought in following the Bali bombings.”


Matt said QLS had let go a lot of its policy work as part of its agenda at that time.

“At that time, governments, state and federal, brought in some really strong, restrictive legislation about control orders for people and things that really threatened the fundamental basis of being innocent until proven guilty, with preventative detention and other measures there was a big job done to pull everyone together at the time,” he said.

“We needed to defend the rule of law, we needed to defend the fundamental aspects of our system, so we worked with our friends at the Bar and all of our amazing people. We did great submissions and really great advocacy work together in response to a big, complicated issue.

“It was the catalyst for the QLS to deal with its policy work in a more structured way again and build up our capacity. They asked me to focus on that and start building it back up.”

So Matt spent the next 10 years rebuilding and structuring the team, but he was approached by the Law Council of Australia in 2014.

“There was a lot of time and effort spent on that, and building that up function before going to the Law Council to rearrange their policy function,” he said.


“I’ve spent a lot of time in the policy trenches and I love that. But ultimately I started working at the QLS with the then CEO and always wanted to go back to that work after the assignment policy.

“It was very much part of building up the puzzle to try and get towards the role.”

And his time at the Law Council will serve Matt well, as he has visited other states and built relationships across the country.

So the apprentice was looking at the master’s role.

“Everything I’ve done here at QLS has kind of built up to it, and you kind of get to the point after nearly 20 years where you say ‘It’s time to have a go at this’.”

Matt acted as CEO in 2017 during a difficult time for QLS which “wasn’t part of my plan and just happened”.


He steadied the ship for 13 months and was pleased to hand over to Rolf Moses, who left QLS this week.

“I guess I always said to myself I hand it over now but when there’s an opportunity in the future I’m going to put my hat in the ring to do it permanently.”

Law wasn’t always Matt’s first career choice as a Tasmanian schoolboy. But with his good school marks, a teacher advised him to choose something “clever” and Matt found himself studying computer science and law.

“As it happened I ended up finding that I loved law, actually really loved law more than the computers.”

He started in a policy role for the Tasmanian Government, with a little IT work on the side, and then he moved to Scotland. And here law taught him that he could do good.

A stint in Edinburgh working as a paralegal to help former coal miners suffering from a debilitating nerve condition with compensation showed Matt he could make a difference.


“That was really interesting, eye-opening work and a great example of how the law was doing good for these people. There was no way these miners could mount compensation claims by themselves. It was quite a formative thing.”

On returning to Australia, Matt and his wife Monica moved to Brisbane to work in the legal profession here.

“How did you choose law? I’m not sure through any of this story I did. It ended up happening.”

And now Matt is focused on doing good for QLS members.

“I want to focus on delivering value for the members and profession. I want to work on and expand on the QLS mission of good law and good lawyers, and that public good. I’m interested in exploring that concept of purpose.”

And what is Matt’s purpose outside of works hours? He is busy running after three daughters, and ferrying them, and a cello, to various sporting and cultural activities.

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One Response

  1. Matt Dunn is an excellent appointment of long-standing employee of the QLS.
    Congratulations to him and the Council on his selection.
    I wish him well in his new role.

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