LCA President shifts focus to regions

LCA President Greg McIntyre SC addressed the Legal Profession Dinner on Friday night in Brisbane. Photos: Event Photos

While Law Council of Australia (LCA) President Greg McIntyre is not a Queenslander, he has studied our population bases and done the maths.

And at Friday’s Legal Profession Dinner, Greg not only shared his Queensland connections with the legal profession but his concerns for regional lawyers and rural clients in this state.

He showed this population map to the audience of more than 200 guests which painted a concerning, somewhat bleak picture.

“Most of this great state is outside of a metropolitan region. There is a lot of yellow on this map, representing very remote areas, and only a tiny bit of dark green around Brisbane,” he said.

“According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Queensland population exceeds five million people and half of those live here in Brisbane. This leaves around 2.5 million who live outside the major capital.

“The latest National Profile of Solicitors tells us that around eight per cent of Queensland’s just over 14,000 practising solicitors are located in a country/rural area.


“By my maths, that’s around 1100 solicitors covering rural and remote Queensland. Even if we generously assume the RRR (rural, regional and remote) population of Queensland is only one million people, that is roughly 900 people per solicitor.”

He said a Co-Chair of the RRR Committee, Mark Fenlon, who is from Queensland and a QLS member, had been helping lead the LCA’s work in improving RRR recruitment and retention.

“At the end of last year, we released a position paper on the Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) seeking debt reduction and indexation relief for legal practitioners living and working in RRR locations,” Greg said.

“Essentially, what we are calling for is that a lawyer who works in an eligible RRR location for two years has their HELP debt, their university debt, reduced.

“When you think a new lawyer usually leaves university with at least $70,000 in debt, this could be an effective motivator to work in RRR areas.

“Similar programs are already in place for doctors, nurse and teachers. Lawyers are equally as essential to RRR communities.”

He said this idea had “already gained a lot of traction and attention from local communities and the media”. And that Mark, along with other LCA representatives, had visited Canberra to meet with Parliamentary Members to discuss the proposal.


“We have received a positive response to date and will continue to push this recommendation forward,” Greg said.

“We understand and convey that HELP debt relief alone isn’t the answer to rural justice issues, but we think it’s a good starting point.”

President’s Medal winner, Legal Aid Queensland CEO Nicky Davies also urged the audience to make “access to justice a reality for all Queenslanders”.

Greg said he and the LCA were concerned by “the growing gap that is emerging when it comes to ensuring Australia’s legal system is fair, just and accessible to the people who need to use it”.

“The rule of law and human rights of all people are core tenets of our modern democracy and access to justice is an important part of protecting those rights,” he said. 

“However, the justice system doesn’t always work well for everyone and sometimes people can’t get access to justice. Some community sections are much more vulnerable than others.”


He said access to justice required lawyers to be physically based throughout our communities.

“We know from the Law Council of Australia Justice Project that the most disadvantaged members of our community are falling through the gaps and for a lucky country like Australia, that simply is not acceptable.”

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