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Meeting Kirby J

Michael Kirby

While Justin Bieber’s visit causes excitement among Australian girls, law students at the Queensland University of Technology were left in a similar state of hysteria a few weeks ago. The annual law dinner was a monumental social outing for students. Each year the hard working and notoriously motivated (how the hell do they do it?) members of QUOTALS invite extraordinary guest speakers to share some insights and wisdom with developing legal minds. This year, the team outdid themselves with none other than the Honourable Justice Michael Kirby taking the stage.

Frocked up law students filled the Sebel Hotel in Brisbane city for the chance to dine with the best of them, and recount tales with their legal idol. The night was one that surpassed expectation with students treated to a speech that was both funny and motivating speech. In his amazing speech, Kirby pleaded with students to be the next generation that takes the legal world by storm; opening the pathways of justice to all and stamping out discrimination. He spoke about the advancement of women, gays and Indigenous Australians alike, outlining the long road ahead for our humble profession.

He talked about his career and time in law school, including an anecdote about writing ALL of his notes by hand. He told us to hold the memories of law school dear, to take photos and remember our somewhat awkward beginnings. Kirby recounted that he can look back to his university days, and the photographs of such events, and not only be gladdened but nostalgic about the beginnings of highly regarded barristers, judges and solicitors alike. This is the message that resonated the most; the friend you sit next to in Trusts and drink with at your university bar may well be the next Chief Justice or the lawyer to lead the way in law reform. It also makes me reconsider certain drunken activities – here’s looking at you Law Ball 2011.

His speech left some of us in tears but guaranteed that every single one of us was left feeling touched, awestruck and inspired to start semester two on the right foot.

One thing that amazed me about Kirby was his humility and downright ‘normalness,’ though, none of us would have been surprised if at the next minute he decided to transform water into wine. He took the time to sign many a book and every inscription was met with a smile and sometimes a hilarious hand drawn picture specific to each student.

He met countless photo requests with patience and laughter as students lined up by the for the chance to get a happy snap with the man of the hour. Often he was heard muttering, “I look awful in that one, take another one please…wait…show me that one,” proving that our generation isn’t the only one with a penchant for the perfect profile pic. Those patient enough to brave the long line up to meet Kirby can surely tell a tale about his modesty and sense of humour.

Kirby’s speech reminded us to stay human and real, to never let go of what motivated us to study law in the first place and to continue fighting for what we believe in (even if that means more case readings). If you ever get the opportunity to hear Michael Kirby speak it is highly recommended!

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