QLRC reviews in capable hands

QLRC chair and newly retired judicial officer Fleur Kingham records The Callover podcast at the Queensland Law Society. Photo: Geoff McLeod

Fleur Kingham has her eyes firmly fixed on reform.

“I’m not frightened by change,” said the Chair of the Queensland Law Reform Commission (QLRC) as she retired from the Land Court last week.

As a retired judicial officer, Chair Kingham will now focus on her part-time role at the QLRC, overseeing a review of mining lease objections and a review of particular criminal defences.

She will draw on experiences from her distinguished legal career, which includes being a member of the Land Court (2004-06), Deputy President of the Land and Resources Tribunal (2000-06), the first Deputy President of the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) (2009-2012) and holding commissions in the Childrens Court of Queensland (2006-2016) and the Planning and Environment Court (2006-2016). She was appointed a judge of the District Court of Queensland in 2006.

Her role at QCAT involved combining 18 tribunals and five other review bodies into one tribunal, “which was an enormous reform undertaking”.

“It was really a change management job. As well as all of us doing the work, we were having to integrate and develop new processes and come up with an institution that was a solid, holistic body,” she said.


In her seven-year tenure as Land Court President, she led a transformation of the court from a bureaucratic system mired in delays to a model of efficiency.

Chair Kingham said her three main achievements in the Land Court were clearing a backlog of outstanding judgments; the creation of a specialist ADR panel; and the creation of the Court Managed Expert Evidence (CMEE) process.

She said her priority in her first year was clearing the backlogs – some judgments were two years outstanding – and identifying the problems which led to them.

“That is now a thing of the past and that is a credit to the current members,” she said.

“Now we have a three-month protocol that is very rarely exceeded, so a decision is handed down within three months of the final submissions being received.”

The specialist ADR panel comprises a mix of relevant experts including solicitors, barristers, retired members of the court, mining engineers and valuers, who are trained to become specialist mediators in Land Court matters.


“They are used well for Land Court matters,” Chair Kingham said of the panel members.

“I’d like to see them used more widely for related matters. They could really do anything involving a land dispute or a planning dispute.”

The final jewel in the crown for Chair Kingham was the innovative expert evidence procedures of the CMEE process.

“It builds on a familiar practice of experts conferring and providing a joint report,” she said.

“What we do is we have a member who won’t hear the matter presiding over that evidence-gathering process, making sure that before the experts start their work, that they’ve both got the same material, and they’re both asked to address the same questions.

“And then if they need any assistance, or further instructions, or further data throughout the process, then the member can manage the communications between the experts as a group and the lawyers as a group.


“We have found that this leads to higher resolution, and an earlier resolution of matters so as the reports come in, you just see more and more agreement between the experts and it really narrows the issues. It front-ends the cost but it certainly saves the costs at trial stage and the uncertainty.

“And if your case is going to fail because the expert evidence is against you, the earlier you know that, the better.”

Chair Kingham had high praise for the QLS, saying it was natural that a relationship would form between the Land Court and the Society, because it was in the interests of the profession that the court’s problems were addressed.

“When I arrived and I and realised there were things that needed to be done, I reached out the Law Society, to the Bar Association, to the solicitors and barristers who appeared regularly before me in the court, and I outlined what I was trying to achieve, and I had nothing but constructive input from the profession,” she said.

“They helped craft the processes that we’ve got and as a result, I think they both understand them and have some commitment to them.

“I also want to say how much I’ve appreciated my engagement with the Queensland Law Society. The committee system of the Society is something the Society should be proud of. It’s well organised, it’s well resourced, and members of those committees take their responsibilities really seriously.


“If I ever asked for input I got it, and it wasn’t just that it arrived – it was helpful.

“I felt that there was a collaboration with the Society that I’m really grateful for. I don’t think you can achieve significant reform in a short time unless you’ve got the practitioners working with you.”

The QLRC’s consultation paper on the mining lease objections review is due in July, and the consultation paper on the criminal defences review is due in late 2024.

Hear Fleur Kingham’s story and her advice for young lawyers on the QLS podcast The Callover here.

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