Mackay barrister Bronwyn Hartigan has been sworn in as one of the state's three new magistrates.
Mackay barrister Bronwyn Hartigan has been sworn in as one of the state's three new magistrates. Caitlan Charles

Mackay barrister sworn in as new magistrate

WHEN newly appointed Magistrate Bronwyn Hartigan followed her heart in 1998, she did not envisage it would result in a distinguished law career and rise to the bench.

She had moved from Brisbane to Rockhampton to pursue a relationship with her now husband David and while looking for a job, which included applying to be a mortician at a funeral parlour, she was hired at a solicitor's office as a legal secretary.

"The position called for somebody who could type 60 words per minute. I was successful. Thankfully there was no practical test at the interview because I did not know how to type at all,” Mrs Hartigan told a courtroom packed with supporters during her swearing in ceremony yesterday.

"And so my career in the law began.”

Rather than remaining in the office, Mrs Hartigan was often sent to court to take notes and report back on how various cases were going.

"I absolutely loved court,” she said.

And so she was encouraged to study law - and she completed a law degree externally through Queensland University of Technology, which she completed with first class honours.

In 2000 Mrs Hartigan was chosen as the late Supreme Court Justice Peter Dutney's associate.

"(He) took delight in telling me that there were only two applicants for the job and so he flipped a coin and it landed in my favour,” Mrs Hartigan said.

Under his tutelage Mrs Hartigan was encouraged to go to the bar in Mackay where she practised for more than 14 years. Here she became a champion for other female lawyers as the only woman barrister in the region for the past 11 years.

"I'm here today because he saw the potential in me to be a good barrister and with hard work, and dedication, I became one,” she said.

Mrs Hartigan recalled that when she began as a barrister in 2005 she "squatted” in the chambers of barrister Damien Dwyer before he was appointed as a magistrate just months later.

Now she will sit alongside Mr Dwyer at the bench.

During her speech Mrs Hartigan paid tribute to everyone who played a part in her career successes both within and outside the law.

Also a dedicated wife and mother of two, Mrs Hartigan paid tribute to her husband and sons Norman and Frank.

"We are a team in our house. David and I have supported each other's careers in equal measure ... we have shared successes and losses,” she said.

"To my two sons, it's not easy living with parents who work full time ... it's not easy living with you either... thank you for cheering me on today.

"I've worked very hard to get where I am but I've had layers of support,” she said also making special mention of her sister and nanny.

Ms Hartigan will spend about six months as a magistrate in Bundaberg before returning to Mackay to sit at the bench for two years.

Accolades:

Through her efforts in the Rachel Antonio inquest, which involved more than 200 hours pro bono representing Ian and Cheryl Antonio, as well as her work as a barrister Bronwyn Hartigan was recognised in 2015 as a one of six finalists for the Australian ProBono Lawyer of the Year Award.

Mrs Hartigan has a broad experience in general practice, criminal, family, commercial, equity, personal injury law and inquests.

She has been an active member of the Mackay community giving time to organisations including the Kalyan Youth Service and Mackay Regional Council's taskforce against domestic violence. She was also a council member of the Queensland Bar Association and was involved with the Women's Law Association of Queensland.



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