“We support the exchange of free idea and topics for debate. The following is an opinion piece and does NOT reflect the views of the Griffith Law Students Association”.
The LSA Social Justice lunch was about lifting the veil. Lifting the veil on domestic violence, on the financial impact family law has on families and the prevalence of wrongly convicted criminals. I think it’s all too easy to forget, when studying law, that it’s not all about the car or the fancy suit or Mike Ross-ing your exams. I think studying law brings with it responsibility. Responsibility to question the difference between what’s right and what is done right and a responsibility to lift the veil on injustice in the community.
Lunch was provided by Providore. The refreshing iced tea and delicate smoked trout wraps contrasted somewhat poignantly with what the speakers had to say. Abbi Golightly spoke on her role as a Principal at the Law Shack and the adverse reaction she had from the Gold Coast legal fraternity of setting up a budget firm that delivers competitive priced services to families. Anne Pridham, Solicitor at Gold Coast Community, spoke on her experience of leaving the life of corporate law to practice in Alice Springs. Anne recalled women travelling up to twelve hours to spend an hour with her. One piece of advice Anne had was if you want to have a leg up in the law industry, go west. Lastly, Lynne Weathered, Co-founder of the Innocence Project, spoke about incarceration and the frightening reality of people being locked up for crimes they did not commit. Perhaps the most heartbreaking insight was what the first speaker, Rikki-Jane Buckland had to say. Ricki is a family law specialist at the Gold Coast Community legal Centre in Southport. According to Ricki, one in 4 woman and children will suffer from domestic violence and the leading cause of death for woman aged between 10 and 47 is intimate partner violence. The first domestic violence court in the country is operating right here on the Gold Coast.
I think Griffith University, and the Gold Coast campus in particular, suffers from a perceived sense of being removed from the gravitational centre of what’s really going on in Australia. Unlike Brisbane Universities, we’re not allowed political parties. Unlike Sydney Universities, we’ve never had a High Court judge from our ranks. Justice Kirby doesn’t pop in for a guest lecture on constitutional law. We have no rallies. No protests. No sit ins. Just little Griffith, tucked away in leafy Parkwood. Catch the tram, do our course work, hopefully get a HD. When Tara Brown was savagely beaten to death not ten kilometres from this campus there was outrage. There was talk of bikies and Ice but statistically, the attack was not surprising. A woman a week dies at the hands of someone they love or have loved. The Gold Coast has such appalling statistics that it warrants the creation of the first domestic violence court in the country. The Gold Coast has the terrifying distinction of being the epicentre of domestic violence in Australia.
The fact is, with some rare exceptions, the law school education doesn’t provide us with the opportunity to lift the veil. We need events like this at university. More of them. We need people here, highlighting the injustice in the community. We need events like this to remind us, when we leave law school and put on the suit fulltime, that there is a difference between what’s right and what is done right. That the Gold Coast isn’t so golden for a lot of people. I thank Lauren for organizing the lunch and giving me the opportunity to reflect on these things and I hope there will be more to come.
By James Aird