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Welcome for Karl Blake - Federal Circuit Court

Welcome for Karl Blake - Federal Circuit Court

By LIV Media

Courts 

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May it please the court. I appear on behalf of the Law Institute of Victoria and the solicitors of this state to welcome Your Honour Karl Blake as a judge of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia.

I also appear for the Law Council of Australia.

We acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we gather and pay our respects to their Elders, past and present, and to any Elders with us today.

Unflappable is a word consistently applied to Your Honour.

It might also partly characterise Mahatma Ghandi and Nelson Mandela, two change agent leaders you admire.

Biographies of heavyweight boxing champions Jack Johnson and Muhammad Ali also grace your shelves.

We concur wholeheartedly with the superlatives bestowed by my learned friend to encapsulate Your Honour’s professional and personal qualities.

To those we add determination and courage which were displayed as a youth and signified the challenges you confronted.

You faced racial bullying at school and was helped overcome it by your late father Karl Snr who enrolled you in martial arts classes.

The tormenting ceased and a passion grew.

Today you practice Goju – meaning “hard/soft” – a style of karate that builds character and self-confidence and also engenders respect for oneself and others.

There is no evidence, however, that Your Honour resorted in difficult mediations to grappling, take downs or throws.

And when diagnosed in Year 10 with cancer, you displayed courage to confront hospitals, surgery and chemotherapy – let alone mortality when so young.

After fighting for your life, fulfilling an ambition to become a lawyer might appear somewhat tame. But typical of Your Honour, the law and its rule and application has been a commitment to attaining excellence.

A stint while studying in 1995 as a seasonal clerk at Blake Dawson Waldon – later Blake Dawson and now Ashurst – led to articles and placement in industrial relations and employment and commercial litigation.

For three years as a solicitor there from 1998 – including six months secondment to Qantas as an industrial relations manager – Your Honour honed the skills that led to appointment as a senior associate in IR and employment.

Richard Bunting, then one of two resident Melbourne partners in the firm’s national group – and now senior consultant with Ashurst – recalls Your Honour as a highly valued and successful member.

You played a leading role in many important matters for major clients that included IBM and the Commonwealth Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations before the Full Court of the Federal Court.

There were also a number of test cases, including the Electrolux litigation in the High Court of Australia which considered workplace agreements and employment relationship.

Mr Bunting – who served two decades on the Law Council of Australia’s Industrial Law Committee, including five years as its chairman – says you were universally recognised as an excellent, hard working lawyer and an invaluable mentor.

While Your Honour learnt and practiced precision and elegance in legal writing, Mr Bunting suggests one possible blemish on the pristine record was a lifelong love of the Essendon Football Club.

He is not alone expressing the teasing tribalism that Australian football engenders … a friend assesses your red and black support as simply misguided.

Another imagines being a fly on that Bomber beanie to see whether Mr Unflappable ever loses it at the footy.

When Your Honour later represented Essendon during the supplements saga in an action by Dean “The Weapon” Robinson, Paul O’Grady, now QC, was junior counsel.

Mr O’Grady, who also confirms your unflustered ways, acknowledged how well you managed that difficult litigation when not all the considerations were strictly legal.

In 2007, Ross Jackson – partner at Maddocks – recruited Your Honour, then a senior associate with Blake Dawson Waldron.

He disabused some colleagues who were impressed that the Blake surname assumed an ancestral link to the firm’s founder.

Mr Jackson then surprised even more that he proposed to hire a senior associate of another firm directly into Maddocks’ partnership – something more unusual than unprecedented.

But there was never a doubt Your Honour would make an immediate and successful transition.

In eight years with Maddocks, you moved quickly and seamlessly into the roles of team leader and practice group head, displaying organisational management skills and first-class technical prowess.

Your Honour’s expertise has also been provided through various memberships.

As chair, for instance, of the Early Learning Association of Australia’s Industrial Relations Reference Group, you supported service providers across a range of complex IR matters and provided oversight to significant changes to the Association’s operating model.

In sartorial style, Your Honour is a model of immaculate presentation, a trait first exhibited when you insisted on wearing a tie to kindergarten.

Attending exams in school uniform, a brown belt in karate and in recent years donning a stunning cream and tan overcoat each compliment Your Honour’s reputation as a solicitor of substance.

When you joined Minter Ellison in 2015 as a partner, the firm rejoiced in securing a highly experienced litigator and strategist, adviser and employment lawyer with strong leadership skills. T

he Law Institute of Victoria itself can attest to your sage advice and legal research skills.

Our loss of Your Honour from the profession to this Bench mirrors the Court’s gain.

A friend and former colleague weighed your acceptance of this invitation to become a judge while at a top-tier firm, in prime earning time and with important and prolific work emerging.

Stephen Amendola says the decision reflects Your Honour’s strong sense of public service, a conscious perception of duty that speaks highly of you.

As Ghandi once said: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” We wish you many successful years getting lost in finding satisfaction in achieving that goal as a judge.


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