Judge Peter Cole of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia and wife, Susan Cole, have both been awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in the General Division (OAM) in recognition of their tireless work in the establishment and coordination of two not-for-profit family law conferences, held in Indonesia and Darwin for the legal profession. As well as the first-class legal education that is provided to the judiciary and profession, the conduct of these conferences has enabled the contribution to four charities that assist disadvantaged children and their families.

In addition, Judge Cole is the Chair of the children’s committee of the Federal Circuit Court and Family Court which has implemented a number of innovative measures and commenced the national conference for independent children’s lawyers. His Honour is also commencing with the education committee for the National Judicial College.

Judge Cole and Susan started the Bali Family Law Conference in 1999 – a not for profit event which the couple organise and administrate in their own time. The aim of the annual event has always been to provide the highest quality legal education to the profession. After the 2002 bombing in Bali the decision was made to continue the conference and to try to ‘put a little back’ into Bali, as so many people suffered, not just as a direct result of the bombing, but with the loss of jobs as tourism numbers declined sharply.

Through the YKIP Foundation, originally established to look after the children of the Balinese victims, the conference has sponsored 15 children to complete their schooling to Year 12. One of those girls, Irma, the conference is now sponsoring through her university nursing degree.

The conference has also sponsored sports days for underprivileged children in Bali, providing food, drinks and equipment. The delegates also bring stationery, laptops and clothing to Bali for the children and is distributed where needed by YKIP.

Profits from the conference have also gone to the John Fawcett Foundation (cataract operations and mobile eye clinics), the Bali Smile Foundation (cranio-facial surgery) and the Kawa Ijen Sulphur Porters (clothing and trolleys to get the sulphur out of the volcano crater). 

In addition to the Bali conference, Judge Cole and Susan Cole have worked with the Northern Territory Law Society to coordinate and institute a major family law conference in Darwin which started in 2011 and is titled ‘Start the Year at the Top.’ The profits of this conference go to the NT Law Society to further their work with the profession.

Judge Cole said, “It is a privilege to be acknowledged in this way and I am very grateful for the support given to the conferences by so many. In particular I wish to thank former head of the Federal Circuit Court, Chief Justice Pascoe and the Court’s current Chief Judge, Will Alstergren for their support of our work.

“It is an honour to organise such events and it is wonderful to be able, through the conferences, to give something to those who are less fortunate.”

 Susan Cole added, “It is an honour to receive this award but I know it would not have been possible without the good will and support of the speakers, the delegates and the volunteers who help us to make it happen. It is a joy to be able to give something back to Bali and to see the impact that our small effort makes.’

Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, the Hon Will Alstergren congratulated Judge Cole and Susan following today’s announcement.

“The tireless work and countless hours that both Judge Cole and wife Susan has contributed to the establishment of two very significant family law conferences and their charity work have been recognized today.

“The Federal Circuit Court of Australia handles more than 80% of all family law work in Australia and as a judge of this court, Judge Cole has vast knowledge of family law and the difficulties families face following separation. Quality education that keeps the judiciary and the profession up-to-date is imperative in the understanding of modern families and the law.

“The fact that these conferences have been able to benefit children is indeed a wonderful outcome. On behalf of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, I wish to congratulate Judge Cole and Susan on their well-deserved Medal of the Order of Australia.”