President’s Report – September
Nominations for the Law Society’s 2017 Council elections will open on 4 October 2016. The Council elections give members the opportunity to become more deeply involved in the work of the Law Society.
The Council sets the strategic direction for the Law Society, ensures good governance and, with the assistance of the Law Society’s committees, acts as the voice of the legal profession through submissions and regular dialogue with government and the courts.
Nomination forms will be sent electronically with nominations closing on 20 October. I encourage all members to consider nominating for a position on the Council. Further information on the 2017 Council elections will be available in the coming weeks.
MAJOR MILESTONES FOR OUR COURTS
Some important events for Western Australian courts have taken place in the past few weeks. On Friday, 15 July, I was delighted to attend the 40th anniversary celebrations of the Family Court of Western Australia at the Government House Ballroom. Readers will recall the May edition of Brief was devoted to family law, in recognition of this milestone.
In an address to guests, the Hon Chief Judge, Justice Stephen Thackray noted that the Family Court of Western Australia had been founded with the unique capacity to administer both State and Federal law, setting us apart from the rest of the country.
His Honour said that our State can lay claim to having the most coherent family law system in Australia; one which continues to maximise the limited resources afforded to it.
His Honour also drew attention to the Family Court’s pioneering role in the area of gender equality, having been the first court in Australia to have a majority of female Judges.
I also had the privilege of addressing a ceremonial sitting to open the David Malcolm Justice Centre on Wednesday, 27 July. The new building is a splendid new home for civil matters at the Supreme Court of Western Australia.
The advantages of the new David Malcolm Justice Centre are numerous, the building being fitted with technology and facilities that will enable the Supreme Court to work much more efficiently.
For more information on the new Supreme Court building, please refer to the July and August issues of Brief, which contained articles authored by the Hon Chief Justice Wayne Martin AC and the Attorney General, the Hon Michael Mischin MLC.
RENEWED RECONCILIATION ACTION PLAN
The Law Society launched its inaugural Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) in July 2015.
The RAP programme is an initiative of Reconciliation Australia, an independent not-for-profit organisation which promotes and facilitates reconciliation by building relationships, respect and trust between the wider Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Hundreds of other organisations have also developed RAPs with the assistance of Reconciliation Australia, including the Law Council of Australia, the Law Society of New South Wales, the Law Institute of Victoria, the Law Society of South Australia and Law Society Northern Territory.
The Law Society has now reached the end of the initial Reflect RAP, which covered the period from June 2015 to June 2016. A refreshed RAP document has been developed by the Law Society’s RAP Working Group, in consultation with our Indigenous Legal Issues Committee.
The new RAP is just one aspect of the Law Society’s ‘Closing the Gap’ strategic campaign for 2016-17, which will focus on legal issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Western Australia, including overrepresentation in our prison system.
It outlines how the Law Society plans to build on the work done in the last year to promote a Western Australian legal profession where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander law students, graduates and practitioners feel valued and respected.
The new RAP document will be available to view online after it has been endorsed by, and registered with, Reconciliation Australia.
LAW COUNCIL OF AUSTRALIA
Imprisonment for Fine Default
The Law Society recently wrote to the Law Council of Australia, setting out its policy position on the subject of fine default imprisonment.
The issue is a costly one to the Western Australian community, with its effects falling disproportionately on our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, as well as other underprivileged and vulnerable members of our society.
A May 2016 report by the Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services found that Aboriginal women in particular have suffered under the current legislation in Western Australia.
The report established that Aboriginal women accounted for two thirds of all female fine defaulters. Younger Aboriginal women were most affected, constituting 78% of female fine defaulters who are younger than 25.
The focus of government should be shifted away from imprisonment and on to practical measures to recover outstanding fines. A suggested alternative is to enable the garnishing of Commonwealth Centrelink payments and salaries of non-payers by employers.
Directors Meetings in Perth
The Law Society is pleased to host the Law Council of Australia quarterly Directors meetings in Perth over Friday, 9 September and Saturday, 10 September.