Two of Queensland’s top judges have received honorary doctorates from Griffith University for distinguished service to the legal profession.
Chief Justice Catherine Holmes and Judge Brendan Butler received their degrees of Doctor of the University at graduation ceremonies held at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre this week for Arts, Education and Law graduates.
Both judges have headed major commissions of inquiry in Queensland that have shaped public debate and led to major overhauls of state systems.
Chief Justice Holmes, who was appointed the first female Chief Justice of Queensland, told graduates in her occasional address to not worry about whether they felt good enough.
“You can spend time comparing yourselves to others and feeling inadequate. What I’ve come to realise over a long career is that almost everyone feels inadequate whatever level they reach, they just get better at concealing it,” she said.
“Don’t lose time comparing yourself to your peers.
Don’t dwell on mistakes
“Don’t dwell on your mistakes and failures, because there’ll be plenty, and sometimes they actually work out better than it seems at the time.”
Chief Justice Holmes was honoured for her contribution to the legal profession, and to the wider community.
She conducted the Commission of Inquiry into the Queensland floods of 2010-11, which saw 35 lives lost and 70 per cent of the state affected.
She also acted as Counsel Assisting the Forde Commission of Inquiry, which investigated abuse and neglect allegations against more than 150 Queensland youth detention centres and orphanages.
The inquiry led to a major overhaul of child protection after if found widespread abuse and neglect of children within the system.
Chief Justice Holmes was a founding member of the Women’s Legal Service, which seeks justice for Queensland women, especially those who have been subject to domestic violence, sexual assault and other forms of violence.
Chief Justice Holmes has also sought to protect the health of legal practitioners, speaking on the need to balance personal and professional life and the impact of stress, anxiety and depression on legal practitioners.
In her speech she warned graduates not to be being totally consumed with their career.
“Don’t make professional success your only source of happiness, because that’s a recipe for discontent, but do enjoy your achievements,” she said.
Social connection important
Judge Brendan Butler, who played a major role in uncovering corruption in Queensland, urged graduates to take an interest in social issues outside of their discipline and participate in community and charitable organisations.
Judge Butler served as Counsel Assisting the Fitzgerald Commission of Inquiry, which investigated long-term systemic political corruption and abuse of power in Queensland, and said that it had highlighted that ‘our democratic institutions are vulnerable unless right-minded citizens are vigilant’.
Judge Butler, who also developed the first nationally accredited police course in witness protection, was awarded his doctorate for services to the justice system, the community and Griffith University.
During his career he also chaired the Criminal Justice Commission, and the Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) and investigated internet predators preying on young children and tackled organised crime.
He reviewed the Queensland Mental Health Act and the rights of victims of crime where an offender had a mental illness.
He urged graduates to use their knowledge and skills not just in their own interest but also for the betterment of society.
“We live in a fortunate country, with sound democratic institutions, the provide a good quality of life for most. Yet some do not share that,” Judge Butler told graduating students.
“There has been a trend towards greater income inequality over the past two decades.
“Some sectors of society suffer from entrenched disadvantage. In regional Queensland many struggle financially. On my visits to indigenous communities in Far North Queensland and North West Queensland I have witnessed many suffering from multiple disadvantage.
“These are significant challenges for us as a nation.”
Judge Butler, in his role as Chief Magistrate, oversaw the most significant transformation of the Magistrates Courts.
Magistrates were given much greater powers to hear more cases summarily, to hear matters of increased complexity and length, and to deal with much more serious offences.
His efforts have seen him made a Member of the Order of Australia and he is also a recipient of the prestigious Centenary Medal.