Past Presidents

My year as ALA National President

In celebration of the ALA’s 25th anniversary, our past National Presidents are sharing memories of their presidencies. Read their reflections below. Click on their headshots to navigate the document.

Tom Goudkamp OAM

Richard Faulks

Simon Morrison

Tom Goudkamp OAM

I had the honour and privilege of serving as National President of the APLA (as the ALA was then known) in 2004–05. I launched my term at the National Conference in Melbourne where the APLA became the ALA, with a new logo. Our journal Plaintiff was re-named Precedent and our organisation moved into non-personal injury areas of practice, for example criminal law, to widen our sphere of influence.

It was a tumultuous year. Tort law reform, ignited by NSW Premier Carr in 2001, was still high on the political agenda. The insurers’ campaign of misinformation and exaggeration to state and territory governments regarding personal injury compensation claims was also in full swing.

The fight to rein in the unfair scope of the tort law reform was well and truly on. Hardly a day seemed to pass by without me receiving an urgent request from the media to be interviewed about the supposed explosion of personal injury compensation claims and the so-called ‘insurance crisis’. These requests generally arrived just moments before having to ‘go to air’, which was often stressful.

Some interviewers were aggressive and extremely critical of ‘greedy’ plaintiff lawyers, launching into tirades and not bothering to listen to anything I had to say. Mostly I barely managed to get a word in edgeways. Other interviewers were better informed, more circumspect and polite, and often very sympathetic to the plight of injured accident victims.

My year as National President, while often stimulating and exciting was also, at times, disheartening. With the exception of the ACT Government, the state and territory governments were clearly determined to proceed with tort law reform, no matter what.

As I reside in Sydney, where the ALA’s head office is located, I had the luxury of dedicating each Wednesday to being in its office. Eva Scheerlinck was my CEO. We worked well together. I used my time in the office to conduct multiple telephone conferences around the nation with the ALA’s state presidents, various committees and fellow board members.

(L–R) Anthony Scarcella, Ben Cochrane (ALA Legal and Policy Officer),
Tom Goudkamp, Andrew Morrison
and Richard Royle at an ALA planning meeting in 2005

Richard Faulks

I was the ALA’s National President in 2005–06. One highlight was attending the National Conference in Cairns when Bernie Banton — the great advocate for asbestos victims — won our Civil Justice Award. It was a great honour to meet him and present his award. I worked with a very talented team from our head office and enjoyed the strong and spirited support of the various state directors. Eva Scheerlinck, who made a great contribution to the ALA over a number of years, was our CEO.

It was very rewarding travelling to the various state conferences and meeting with our enthusiastic members who were committed to fighting for the rights of the individuals they represented. The ALA has provided me with an excellent opportunity to learn much about the challenges faced by many of our clients throughout Australia and has also nurtured many strong friendships, which I treasure.

(L–R) Richard Faulks, John Purnell and John Little

Simon Morrison

2006–07 was a rewarding year for the ALA. Following damaging reforms nationally via the Civil Liability Acts some years earlier, we set about engaging in meaningful dialogue with federal and state governments and regulators to ensure that insurer profits on the back of these reforms were kept in balance.

We also made key inroads to develop our membership in the areas of criminal law, industrial law and human rights.

It was a privilege to host Major Michael Mori in a series of national engagements as he went about his work defending the human rights of Australian citizen David Hicks, detained in Guantanamo Bay for years without charge.

Workers' compensation was a key issue on the minds of government that year, with no fewer than four inquiries initiated, including a plan by the Commonwealth to seek national harmonisation of workers' compensation laws.

Having the opportunity to travel to every state and territory and meet ALA members was the most rewarding part of all. To witness the great work that our colleagues around the country do every day, to make life better for our clients, was certainly the pinnacle for me.

(L–R) Eva Scheerlinck (ALA CEO), Simon Morrison and Catherine Cheek