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Kenyon, Tony --- "President's page: The fight for justice never ends" [2016] PrecedentAULA 39; (2016) 135 Precedent 3


By Tony Kenyon

When I was approached to consider the role of President I was honoured. A daunting task given the valuable work of our previous National Presidents. I am pleased to have the opportunity to contribute.

I thank our immediate Past President, Greg Phelps for his efforts and will be relying on him, and all our past Presidents, for their counsel and support. Likewise I would like to thank the Victorian State Committee and President Geraldine Collins for their confidence.

I have been part of the Australian Lawyers Alliance for over 20 years, since the inception of the Australian Plaintiff Lawyers Association in 1994. The ALA has a proud heritage. Lawyers for the People.

In my first President’s page, I would like to pay tribute to our Members who are truly the ‘Lawyers for the People’. It is our members that enable the ALA to do exceptional work.

I have been fortunate enough to practise law for over 35 years and I have seen our members make such a difference to the lives of clients.

It is not easy to visit injured clients in hospital, to see their injuries, to regularly consult with those so significantly maimed from motor vehicle or workplace accidents or other negligence. Nor is it easy to comfort those bereaving the loss of a loved one while explaining how the system provides justice and compensation for the death of a spouse or child.

To all our Members I say be proud of what you do and achieve.

There are challenges ahead.

The relentless onslaught of tort reform affecting the rights of clients in the name of financial viability. The battle to withstand the legislative attack on people’s rights, intrusions into our privacy and legal protection and justice are at the very core of the ALA.

Through the efforts of all its members, the various State and other Committees, the National Council, generous sponsors and the very hardworking, dedicated and talented staff at our National office, the ALA champions the fight for justice. To protect the very vulnerable, the disadvantaged, and all those marginalised in some way.

I refer to the ALA Report released a few weeks ago ‘Untold Damage: Workplace health and safety in immigration detention under the Work, Health and Safety Act 2011 (Cth)’ which highlights that the Act is being haphazardly implemented in immigration detention facilities, even though they are Commonwealth workplaces under that Act. It also notes that the regulator, Comcare, appears to misunderstand its own obligations to investigate injuries and illnesses. The report maintains the Government response should be legislative change and a meeting of obligations.

Far too often, the response is criticism of the author or advocate. I refer to the criticism directed at Professor Gillian Triggs, President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, or the shameful Government response to the tragic self-immolation by refugees.

Access to justice continues to challenge.

Just recall the story of Lynette Daley and her family’s battle for justice over the events surrounding her brutal death or the case of the suicide by Brenton Walsh as a result of workplace bullying.

There continues to be the challenge of redress and common law remedies for the victims of sexual abuse. The Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry has taken place and there is still the ongoing Commonwealth Royal Commission. The ALA continues to engage with this.

In the face of these ongoing challenges, the advocacy of the ALA continues to have an impact.

The Victorian Government that recently reversed the 2013 legislation which restricted rights of people suffering severe psychological injuries as a result of motor vehicle collisions. This was particularly important to emergency services personnel as well as good Samaritans who assist at the scene of serious accidents.

The Victorian Government has also been a supporter of an alternate dispute resolution process (known as Protocols) for transacting disputes between our members on behalf of clients and the Transport Accident Commission. The Protocols recognise the significant role of lawyers acting to protect their client’s interests. The Protocols have resulted in successful outcomes in benefit delivery with lower costs.

In NSW, the ALA is engaged in an urgent campaign to prevent radical changes to CTP rules that would leave injured people significantly worse off.

To conclude, I look forward to working with everyone to continue the good work of the ALA. I hope to meet many of you at the forthcoming conferences throughout the year and to hear your stories.

Tony Kenyon is Northern Practice Group Leader (MVA/WC) with Slater + Gordon in Epping & Reservoir Victoria.

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