Determined to become the first female Samoan judge in Australia, Griffith University law student Princess strengthened her understanding of Queensland’s justice system when she job shadowed the person responsible for it – the Hon Yvette D’Ath, Queensland’s Attorney-General and Minister for Justice.
Imagine being in a job where your words are scrupulously dissected, your movements are closely documented, your calendar is frequently subject to oscillations and your decisions constantly scrutinized – and this is only in the first hour of your day. Now in addition to these expectations, the job necessitates that you oversee and champion the transparency, efficiency and development of the justice and legal system of an entire State.
For Yvette D’Ath, this is not an exercise in imagination. This job description is what she is expected to fulfill as Attorney-General and Minister for Justice of Queensland.
Princess looks on as the Attorney-General meets the press at Parliament.
Within a matter of minutes of stepping in to the Attorney-General’s (AG) office, we were out the door and on our way to Parliament. Having released the Independent Review of Youth Detention report the day before, the Attorney was required to respond to media’s criticisms and questions about redactions in the report. Despite an antagonistic atmosphere, Mrs D’Ath replied with calmness, confidence and legally considered answers. In retrospect, observing the interview has reminded me that as a current law student and future barrister, it is necessary to respond to criticisms with calmness and robust legal justification. Indeed, seeing the Attorney fearlessly explain the report caused me to personally question what area of law I am passionate enough about to defend in a similar manner. Also, it has reminded me that asking questions and carefully examining and analysing decisions are methods of improvement and transparency.
Once the interview was finished, the next scheduled appointment was a speech in celebration of the dedication and commitment of hardworking Justices of the Peace in the Wynnum region. Seeing the Attorney speak at this event, her language expressed delight and gratitude. Observing Mrs D’Ath in this capacity reminded me that her role as Attorney-General and Minister for Justice is multi-dimensional and requires a balancing of several other roles.
This was further highlighted in the ride back to Brisbane city. In the midst of answering phone calls, text messages and tracking social media, Mrs D’Ath received a notification from Pet Barn. As we all laughed about the importance of this notification in the midst of the busy morning, it reminded me that Mrs D’Ath is able to expertly fulfill her role as Attorney-General, whilst also being someone who does not take herself too seriously – a soccer mum and even a pet owner.
As a law student I can sometimes take myself too seriously and neglect other important areas of my life. After this car ride, I felt empowered seeing someone who is able to balance a demanding career with family life and other commitments.
Seated comfortably in the Banco Court at QEII Courts of Law.
While seeing the Attorney in action was definitely an insightful and enjoyable experience, my favorite part of the day was having lunch with Mrs D’Ath. I asked her what she could share from her own days as a law student. Sharing her own personal experience of studying, she explained the importance of personalising your studies and the simple attribute of working hard. She also spoke about why it is necessary to persevere. This was very impactful to me as I have had times where I have wanted to throw in the towel and be done with my studies. Yet hearing about how she persevered served as a reminder to me to ensure that I make my studies work around me.
Finally, it reminded me to keep dreaming about what I can do and how I can use my law degree to make the world a better place.
Chief Justice Avia has a nice ring to it? :)