Qld dust disease legal expert wins national Civil Justice Award
8th Mar 2022
A Brisbane lawyer committed to obtaining justice for workers whose health has been irreparably damaged due to exposure to dust from engineered stone has won the Australian Lawyers Alliance’s (ALA) 2021 Civil Justice Award.
Queensland lawyer, Mr Roger Singh from Shine Lawyers was presented with the award at an ALA conference in Sydney on Friday.
“Roger Singh is a truly deserving recipient of our annual Civil Justice Award,” said Mr Graham Droppert SC, National President, ALA. “Roger specialises in representing people diagnosed with deadly dust-related diseases and he has successfully lobbied for numerous legislative reforms to create safer workplaces that will positively impact the lives of thousands of stonemasons.
“Roger is breaking new ground in this area both in terms of obtaining excellent litigation outcomes and also in advocating for law reform and for the enforcement of occupational health and safety practices.”
In accepting this award on Friday, Mr Singh acknowledged that progress has been made but he also called for all states and territories to implement a licensing scheme to restrict the supply and handling of engineered stone to those businesses that qualify for a licence by adhering to stringent workplace safety practices. He commended the Victorian State Government for being the country’s first state to embrace such a scheme, which he has been advocating for since 2018, but renewed his call for all other Australian jurisdictions to follow suit.
Mr Singh’s work has also served to highlight the connection between silica exposure and autoimmune diseases like scleroderma and rheumatoid arthritis, where such association, unlike the case with silicosis, has not been readily recognised.
“It is unbelievable that in modern day Australia we are still seeing workers employed in dust ridden conditions with their lives put at stake,” said Mr Singh. “This award is a testament to the courage and resilience of human spirit displayed by so many workers that I have had the honour to represent. Many of these workers have shared their stories to initiate national awareness of this tragic issue and have lent their voices to agitate for the creation of safer workplaces.
“For me this work it not just about representing workers in their individual claims but also about lobbying for change where we see a systemic wrong that must be remedied.”
The ALA’s Civil Justice Award is presented annually to an individual or organisation who has made a significant contribution to the pursuit of civil justice in Australia.
“Roger is an excellent example of a lawyer who is using his skills and expertise every day to improve the lives of others,” said Mr Droppert SC. “His advocacy and lobbying over many years has directly influenced significant changes to state based statutory compensation schemes and national workplace health and safety regulations.
“We are pleased to be able to acknowledge and recognise Roger’s outstanding work.”
For 2021, the ALA presented two people with Civil Justice Awards and NSW barrister, Dr Andrew Morrison RFD SC, was the other recipient of this award. Previous ALA national Civil Justice Award winners include Malcolm Fraser, John Ellis, Bernard Collaery, Eddie Mabo and Andrew Wilkie.