Last week, the Law Institute of Victoria held its annual awards night, recognising some of the profession’s most outstanding lawyers and law firms. Environmental Justice Australia was nominated in the category of 'Community Lawyer/Organisation of the Year'.
The award went jointly to Lucy Adams from Justice Connect and Emma Smallwood, Women’s Legal Service Victoria. It was an honour to share a platform with so many public spirited, hard working, high achievers, showing how the law can be used for everyone's good.
While attending the award ceremony, I thought about our clients on the front lines of the impacts of coal and gas, and the burning, mining and extraction of fossil fuels.
As well as our clients tirelessly advocating for a just transition to a clean energy economy, to protect jobs, our health and the health of our planet.
At Environmental Justice Australia, we have the privilege of choosing the fight for environmental justice – but for our clients, like the members of Voices of the Valley living on the the front lines of the Hazelwood Mine Fire disaster – they didn't choose this fight – the fight chose them.
It is in their homes, in their lungs and in the impacts felt through the community because of the spike in deaths at the time of the coal mine fire. The re-opened Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry, where we acted for Voices of the Valley, found the spike in deaths was likely caused by the coal mine fire.
We have been privileged to have the opportunity to strengthen their voice with our legal advocacy – and we did so with clear success with the inquiry's upsetting findings. A complete vindication of their courageous calls for action and justice, which were originally ignored.
Being nominated for this award by the Law Institute of Victoria, and our colleagues in the legal profession, gives us great encouragement to continue our work advocating for environmental justice.