Having held a number of positions in the Queensland Parliament, in 2016 the Honourable Mark Ryan was appointed the Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Services and the Minister for Corrective Services.

A big fan of Law Week, Minister Ryan was keen to be part of Justice Journeys, and Rachel was the lucky student selected for this one.

When I think of politicians the fictional character Frank Underwood comes to mind – a self-serving politician with the malicious aspiration of becoming President of the United States at any cost. In stark contrast, the politician I had the pleasure of shadowing, the Honourable Mark Ryan, is a pleasant, approachable, humble and courteous public official – a man who I observed as having a heightened sense of awareness and adaptability, as you would expect of any accomplished professional. As entertaining as Frank Underwood may be, Minister Ryan is the man you want representing you in Parliament.

When I arrived at 1 William Street, I was greeted in the foyer by the Minster’s policy and media advisor Cathie. As opposed to feeling intimidated, I immediately felt at ease. Cathie is the type of woman you aspire to be. She is feminine and gentle, while being simultaneously resolute, attentive and reliable. Whilst Cathie and I were in the elevator together she explained what was on the agenda for the day. At that point I had already begun to comprehend that the afternoon ahead was going to exceed my expectations.

Prior to being introduced to the Minister, Cathie reiterated to me the confidentiality of many of the activities I would be involved in. I was shown around the office and introduced to her welcoming colleagues.

I was introduced to the Minister, who among other delegations is the Minister for Corrective Services. I was placed with him because I'm specifically interested in entering the field of criminology as a probation and parole case manager.

Rachel with the Honourable Mark Ryan, Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Services and Minister for Corrective Services. Rachel with the Honourable Mark Ryan, Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Services and Minister for Corrective Services.

The first meeting I sat in on was with the Queensland Corrective Services (QCS) Commissioner as well as the Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioner of the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland. One of the items up for discussion related to developing a culture of human rights. In hindsight, I would have liked to have been a bit more conscious, at the time, of the magnitude of the opportunity I had been afforded. As an undergraduate, it is overwhelming to be in the presence of so many public officials whom you admire.

We then readied ourselves for the next meeting – this time off-site with the general manager of QCS Probation and Parole, as well as the director and the district manager of the QCS High Risk Offender Management Unit (HROMU). We were driven to the meeting by ministerial driver Lee, and I must admit it was a very cool experience to be driven from meeting to meeting in an official government car.

L-r: Rachel, Minister Ryan, QCS Surveillance Officer Lucy Kettle and High Risk Offender Management Unit Operations Manager Andrew Wilson. L-r: Rachel, Minister Ryan, QCS Surveillance Officer Lucy Kettle and High Risk Offender Management Unit Operations Manager Andrew Wilson.

I cannot divulge much detail of what took place in the meetings I attended, but I can say that the second meeting was held in a secret location. On our way we picked up a journalist who was specifically interested in the topic that was to be addressed in the meeting and he too was instructed not to share the location of the facility we were visiting for security reasons. In short, at the second meeting we were given a presentation relating to the use of GPS tracking devices to monitor high risk offenders.

We then made our way to the third and final meeting for the day which was close by the Minister's electorate of Morayfield. Here we met with the district manager of the Caboolture Probation and Parole Office, and the regional manager of the QCS North Coast Probation and Parole region. Each of the meetings offered a unique experience. Unlike the first two meetings, this one was considerably more relaxed. In saying that though, the Minister somehow managed to make his contributions to all three of the meetings appear effortless. We had afternoon tea with all of the probation and parole case managers who were on duty and the Minister gave them the opportunity to speak freely, ask questions and raise any concerns they had.

I felt as though the most enjoyable time spent with the Minister and his ministerial staff was the time we spent driving to and from meetings. In total, the Minister, Cathie, Lee and I spent approximately two of the six hours in the car together and it was nice to observe the Minister in that setting, spending quality time with two people he clearly trusts and values. It was also interesting to observe how they utilised this time so efficiently. As well as experiencing moments of laughter, and discussing some of the Minister's favourite books, business was conducted and important phone calls were made.

Rachel Rachel on her Justice Journey.

My time with Minister Ryan certainly made me appreciate politicians that much more and it sparked the idea of getting into politics myself. If the general public were given this level of access to their parliamentary representatives, I believe there would be far less contention between the two. I'm very grateful to the Minister and his ministerial staff for the opportunity they afforded me and I hope to cross paths with them again at some point in the future.