"What do you think about when we use the word hero? What sort of hero comes to mind first? Is it a war hero, a sports hero, a fireman, a mythical hero, a rescuer or a fighter for justice? I am sure that some of you might first think of Jamie Benn, Sidney Crosby and Carey Price all coming home from Sochi in triumphal splendour.When I look back on life, I have not had very many heroes.
Sure, as a kid, I was an avid reader and I had my heroes of fiction. When I got into my twenties my hero was Bertrand Russell the scholar, philosopher and thinker. He also was a social activist and at the age of ninety, he was being hauled off to prison as one of the nuclear protesters. In middle age I was very short of heroes and I cannot think of any off hand.
When I got into my eighties, everything changed. I found a whole bunch of heroes and heroines. They didn’t ride around on white horses, or wear white Stetsons or sport shining armour. They appeared to be in disguise because with one exception, each one looked very ordinary. I have just found a new heroine and I want to tell you about her.
Doing child protection advocacy and occasionally writing on this blog, I have heard a a great deal about lawyers and much of it is critical. Legal aid lawyers who simply want to adjourn and bill. Lax lawyers who do not do their homework. Lawyers who will not follow instructions and those who advise you not to put up a fight in case you upset the wrong people. Lawyers with no fire in the belly who will not fight for you, or lawyers who take all your money and dump you in midstream. So, I would not normally be expecting to find my heroes there.
Of course very high on my list of heroes was the late Doug Christie. Now he did look like a hero. He was tall and handsome and he wore a black Australian drover’s hat, boots and a beautifully tailored long-tailed coat. It was long enough to conceal a pair of ivory handled revolvers, but I don’t think he would wear them to court. Then just this last October I found another lawyer hero, Jack Hittrich of Hittrich Law firm. He took on the case covered capably by Ian Mulgrew. He got the mother her kids back. When she ran out of money, he carried her through 65 days of hearings and many months. He never backed off. The judgement was a serious indictment of the children’s ministry. They are now on trial in a malfeasance suit and Hittrich law has carried it for over one hundred days. These pro bono cases cost the lawyers a huge amount of money, not only in lost income, but also heavy overhead expenses.
Quite recently I was asked for help by another mother of two children. She had read some of my writing on this blog and contacted me through Ron. Her children were taken into care and they were on a temporary order. The children revealed to a child guidance counsellor that they had been abused in one of the foster homes. This put the social worker in a weak position and may have had an influence on things. The mother was fortunate to have a lawyer who carried her pro bono and who had lots of fire in her belly. She got the children returned under three months of supervision. The director is trying to get it extended. He is doing this even though the social workers have done nothing in the last three months and have totally neglected to uphold their responsibilities under the negotiated agreement.
Their lawyer is opposing this strongly, but this is a complete understatement. The lawyer is Diane Turner QC She is not a family court lawyer, but she is an expert on international law. Every year she goes to the international court in The Hague, Holland and lectures on international law. That is where she is right now. But read this. There is a hearing on the last day of this month and the lawyer is flying back from Europe at her own expense in order to represent this mother. Then Ms. Turner will fly back to The Hague. Now that is what I call heroic. I will tell you about my other heroes next time."
Ray Ferris is a retired Ministry of Children child protection worker and supervisor yet because of what he has seen in recent years, he is an irrepressible critic of bad child protection work and a frequent contributor on this blog site. He is the author of the book entitled, ‘The Art of Child Protection.’