Baby Ferouz legal team named ALA Qld 2015 Civil Justice Award Winner

13th Feb 2015

The legal team which fought to free baby Ferouz and his family from detention has been declared the winner of the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) Queensland Civil Justice Award.

The baby Ferouz legal team comprising solicitor Angus Francis from not-for-profit Refugee and Immigration Legal Service, Maurice Blackburn Senior Associate Murray Watt, and Barristers Mark Steele, Matt Black, Stephen Keim SC and Walter Sofronoff QC, along with the parents of baby Ferouz, was presented with the honour at the ALA’s Queensland State Conference on the Gold Coast this morning.

ALA Queensland President Michelle James said that the team was a worthy recipient of the Award for its unwavering pursuit of justice and its appeal of every legal challenge that came the family’s way, on a pro-bono basis. Ms James said members of the team made numerous direct representations at the highest political and media levels on behalf of the family, often at great personal and financial expense.

“The baby Ferouz case was a landmark case for two reasons - firstly, it led to 31 babies being released from detention and gave them the legal right to seek temporary protection in Australia,” Ms James said.

“Further, it played an historic role in giving a face to the many hundreds of children still living in detention centres today. This case blew open the national debate once again to demand a fair go for people escaping violence and persecution who seek a better life for their families in Australia.”

Ms James said that despite being born in Australia, baby Ferouz and his family faced a significant and lengthy legal battle in a bid to secure his freedom from a life in detention.

“In January 2015, baby Ferouz and his family were finally released from a detention centre in Darwin,” Ms James said. “They had been detained since Ferouz’s birth, spending every night since Ferouz left hospital living in detention.

“Over this 14-month period, a number of landmark legal actions were undertaken on behalf of baby Ferouz,” Ms James said. “These included seeking urgent injunctions to stop the family being transferred to Nauru, lodging challenges to the Migration Act seeking to test the definition where a baby born in Australia to asylum seeker parents was deemed to be an ‘Unauthorised Maritime Arrival’, lodging a citizenship application on behalf of Ferouz, and related submissions, hearings, applications and appeals heard before the Federal Court and the High Court,” Ms James said.

“Separate to these legal actions, countless representations were also made by the legal team on behalf of Ferouz and babies in detention in the political sphere.”

Ms James said that baby Ferouz’s legal appeal seeking the right to apply for a Protection Visa was ultimately unsuccessful. However, on the day his appeal verdict was due to be handed down, the former Minister for Immigration Scott Morrison announced that an exception would be made allowing baby Ferouz and his family, as well as 30 other Australian-born babies also living in detention with their families, to apply for Temporary Protection Visas and to be released from detention in order to do so.

“With most legal and parliamentary avenues exhausted, such an outcome was only made possible on account of the significant groundswell of support for Ferouz and his family from the broader Australian public,” Ms James said. “This support was built through the constant efforts of Ferouz’s parents and legal team, which never gave up highlighting the plight of baby Ferouz and all babies living in detention.”

The legal team received its award at the conference on the Gold Coast this morning. Baby Ferouz’s parents thanked their legal team in an emotional video recorded in Melbourne, where they are now living.

ALA’s 2015 Queensland Conference is being held at the Sheraton Mirage Resort & Spa, Gold Coast from Friday 13 February to Saturday 14 February 2015.

It is the premier annual event for Queensland-based lawyers, barristers and associated professionals with a social justice focus.

Conference Highlights

  • Keynote Address: Developments in The Law of Negligence – Have Plaintiffs Lost The Shirt From Their Backs? Delivered by The Hon. Justice Margaret McMurdo AC, President of the Court of Appeal
  • Economic Loss – Proving the Case for A Young Plaintiff With A Bright Future –Evidence, Admissability and Opinion: Justin Harper, Darrow Chambers and Michelle James, Principal, Maurice Blackburn
  • Catastrophic Injury, NDIS and NSW Lifetime Care – Managing a Claim in The New Climate: Gerard Mullins, Darrow Chambers
  • Pleading the law – Grappling with Liability and The Civil Liability Act 2003 in Pleadings: Graeme Crow QC
  • The Current Landscape of The Comcare Scheme: Phil Nolan, Senior Associate, Maurice Blackburn
  • Vicarious Trauma - Looking After Yourself While You’re Looking After Others: Kate Dobbrick, Workplace Wellbeing Consultant, Maurice Blackburn
  • Repetitive Strain Injury – Understanding the Mechanics: Dr Mark Robinson, Upper Limb Orthopaedic Surgeon, Mater Hospital and Justin O’Sullivan, Ergonomist, Ergowork

A full conference program can be downloaded here.

Tags: Human rights Asylum seekers and refugees Civil Justice Award