Monday, June 20, 2011

On Glorious Mackay ...

Check out this awesome website. And check out this amazing scene.

Some of you may find it hard to imagine how anyone could resist working in such an environment. And just thinking about it makes me wonder why the hell I left the place.

One of the fringe benefits of working in the community legal sector is that you actually get the time to walk outside your office, indeed to drive away from your office, at around 5:30pm in time to enjoy a place like this. Better still, you feel good about yourself because you've actually helped people who simply cannot afford to go anywhere else.

In October 2009, after I'd finished writing and publishing and promoting my book, I had made a conscious decision not to go back to private practice in the big smoke. Community sector law proved a little less generous on my bank balance, but the benefits as far as lifestyle have been superb. It has also allowed me to see and live in parts of Australia I never expected to visit even on holidays.

Surviving on $65,000 per year for putting your unrestricted practising certificate on the line may not sound like a terribly good return on a 6 year study and decade work investment. Still, if it means sitting down on a hilltop cafe overlooking this ...

... whilst avoiding the inevitable second divorce and/or impending nervous breakdown of many a partner of a metropolitan law firm, then surely the pay cut is worth it.

Stupid me stayed in this gorgeous place only 10 months. At the time I regarded Mackay as a cultural wasteland, a veritable Boganville. And yes, in some ways it truly was.

But one of the great things about Mackay was its proximity to Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays, where the view was often even more spectacular.

It was a truly pleasurable 10 months. Among the areas of QLD law I managed to discover were:

a. A mega-tribunal that dealt with just about every jurisdiction under the planet. And calling itself QCAT. Pretty funky name.

b. The horrors of the QLD child protection system, one where sadly indigenous kids are over represented.

c. The rather scary prospect of being slapped with a "peace and good behaviour order" if I wasn't nice to my neighbours.

d. The amazing work done by an army of underpaid community and social workers, disability advocates and legal aid lawyers (though they got paid much more than we at the community legal centre did).

This isn't the kind of law I even knew existed in the days when I was busy working ridiculous hours defending employers who refused to dismiss their workers properly and/or pay award entitlements.

Words & Photos © 2011 Irfan Yusuf

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