Legal advice 24/7

Leonique Swart and Fiona Hardy

The demand for legal advice across NT Government didn't stop during COVID-19 – on the contrary, demand soared as people sought answers on a whole range of issues.

Thankfully, Leonique Swart, Fiona Hardy and their colleagues rose to the challenge.

As Principal Policy Lawyers with Legal Policy in the Department of the Attorney-General and Justice, Leonique and Fiona offered essential legal advice on a 24/7 basis.

The first major task during the crisis was advising on making the public health emergency declaration under the Public and Environmental Health Act 2011. This provided the legal framework for the Chief Health Officer to make directions.

A typical day involved lots of meetings, for example:

  • with other representatives from agencies and with interstate counterparts
  • meetings with Chief Executives, and the provision of critical advices
  • liaising with Parliamentary Counsel on the drafting of the Chief Health Officer Directions
  • liaising with the Solicitor-General on constitutional issues and
  • briefing out work to other lawyers in legal policy and the Solicitor for the Northern Territory.

Fiona was also involved in an inter-agency working group chaired by the NT Electoral Commissioner addressing issues in preparation for the election.

These tasks were in addition to their normal legal workload and supervision of junior lawyers.

Leonique acknowledged the work was stressful – but also exciting.

"It felt like we did several months’ worth of work in a couple of weeks," she said.

"We also felt the human aspect of our work, and a sense of purpose – which was, essentially, to save lives."

Fiona echoed that the team, along with other public servants, worked hard.

"We don't just work from 8:00am to 4:21pm," Fiona said.

"People, and I am thinking particularly of my colleagues and myself, enter the public service because we care about providing service to the public."

Leonique said she was proud of the collective effort: "I saw people, many people, working really hard and doing really long hours because it had to be done. I also saw 'silos' across government being broken down because we had to work together to solve urgent problems."

Fiona hopes to see that continue post-COVID: "I hope that there will be a breaking down of agency silos in the NTPS and more flexibility around working conditions," she said.

Leonique Swart and Fiona Hardy

Last updated: 23 June 2020

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