I am a contemplative womxn.
Paula Morreau is a barrister, sessional academic, and a mother to two girls.
What's easy for womxn?
To bond together. To be great friends and aunts (of all kinds). To learn. To have, or develop, empathy.
What's difficult for womxn?
Many and varied things. Balancing all the responsibilities we are either bestowed or take on ourselves. Dealing with the patriarchy in places of power.
How do you maintain mental fitness?
I live at the beach and have young children so for us, nature is a wonderful fix. I try to exercise reasonably regularly. However, I struggle to prioritise healthy choices when I am sleep-deprived, which happens way too often.
What brings you joy?
Lots of things. Always music: listening and dancing. Actually, music can help me process most emotions. But I find it uplifting generally. Watching my children grow. Learning. Creative space. Nature. Great conversations. Sometimes, personal space.
How do you nurture your relationship with nature?
I immerse myself, whether by swimming (beach, creek), whale-watching (yes, we can see whales from our local beach and nearby headlands) or bushwalking rewarded by a beautiful view. I have never been a gardener, but respect the environment. I have learnt a lot, alongside my children, about how to better care for our country. My kids’ community pre-school nurtures a strong respect for and interaction with Bundjalung elders, their language and culture, including care for country in our area, which we have loved learning as a family. We also recently came across a local wildlife care co-operative effort where we can volunteer to check, protect and record the circumstances of nesting turtle eggs during nesting season.
Where do you feel a sense of belonging/community?
When I get to spend time with my kindred spirits, who generally have compatible world-views. I have found people I have clicked with in various forms and at various stages of my life – school, university (both times), through joint friends, work etc. I try to nurture and maintain these relationships even though many are now long-distance. I love it when I can share time with my friends and our kids, in the village we have created.
Where do you live/work?
I work primarily in central Brisbane – Yaggera / Turrbal country, these being the clans of the Brisbane River Valley. I live on the North Coast of New South Wales, on the country of the Goodjinburra clan of the Bundjalung nation, just south of the Yugambeh clan lands of the Bundjalung nation (Gold Coast/Beaudesert/Ipswich).
What motivates you?
Inequality. It may be my religious upbringing, but as a lawyer, as a white woman, I have abundant privilege. In many respects, this is essentially unfair. I use my position as a lawyer, as much as I can afford to, to address inequality, often on a pro bono or limited fee basis.
What’s important to you?
I feel very strongly about walking alongside my Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander friends in their struggle for equality, respect, Constitutional recognition and treaty. Doing both the little and the big things, when called upon. It is important to me that my professional work is always of the highest standard I can give. And in my real job I try to grow my girls up as best I can. This is also an important part of who I am.
Best encouragement from a woman?
Oh, there’s so many. But Chloe Hooper (writer, well known for her award-winning non-fiction book The Tall Man) met a younger, somewhat lost version of myself about 15 years ago, and encouraged me to apply to do a Masters at Harvard. I did, and I got to go there. It was truly life-changing. Also, the Hon. Margaret White AO (former Justice of Appeal on the Queensland Supreme Court, Co-Commissioner in the NT Royal Commission called after events in the Don Dale juvenile detention centre) wrote me a lovely note when I came to practice at the Bar. Amongst many things, she encouraged me to be myself, as an advocate. To create my own genuine style. I have tried to do that.
What are you working on?
I spent most of COVID reading up on human rights cases and academic works from Australia and around the world. Since Queensland enacted a Human Rights Act in 2019, I have been able to practise in human rights law! This has been a long-held dream of mine since studying and thinking about different aspects of human rights from a comparative perspective as part of my Masters degree. I have had the magnificent opportunity to represent the Queensland Human Rights Commission in its interventions in cases dealing with human rights over the last 12 months or so.
How do you play?
I love live music. I can’t wait for it to come back into our lives. I am still waiting with my twice-postponed Bluesfest tickets; for October 2021. I also love catching up with friends.
Describe an influential woman in your life.
Too many to choose from. I take inspiration from, and have been influenced by, so many great women; teachers, colleagues, mentors and friends. I think women can be remarkable in the ordinary; that almost every one has a part of themselves that I might admire or learn from. Something sassy, something in the way she organises herself, functions, responds to crises, a turn of phrase, or just how she treats others in the everyday. These things can be powerful. I also like to read about women who have made important contributions to society. Recently this has included about the late great Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Samantha Power and Anne Summers.
Like Paula, we think that women are remarkable, particularly their capacity to rise again and again. Many years ago I read an interview with an Aboriginal Elder who summarised this by saying "At the beginning of the day someone has to get up and put the kettle on". How fabulously true this is and a reminder to pause after putting the kettle on to appreciate that rising to another day is an act of reliability, which is the basis of stability.