As the solicitor primarily responsible for the maintenance of the case, Greg McIntyre carried much of the responsibility not only for securing the necessary funding but also for preparing the necessary progress reports, acquittals and estimates of future costs. These tasks came on top of the heavy legal workload expected of an instructing solicitor.
The difficulties of fulfilling this dual role were compounded by the episodic nature of the Mabo litigation. Periods of intense activity would be followed by lulls whilst other parties considered a certain proposal or whilst awaiting a court ruling on some interlocutory point. This is, of course, the nature of a barrister's work. But for a solicitor like Greg McIntyre, it meant that outside employment was necessary - and this meant that the administrative and legal work on the Mabo case came on top of full-time work in other positions.
In the early days of the case, Mr McIntyre was employed by a regional Aboriginal Legal Service in North Queensland. In 1984, he began in private practice and then in 1988 returned to his home State of Western Australia to work with the Aboriginal Legal Service in Perth. The difficulties of combining these dual roles meant that the load had to be shared. Thankfully, the senior barrister appearing for Eddie Mabo and the other plaintiffs, Ron Castan QC, convinced a private firm of solicitors of the public importance of the case and persuaded them to provide some free legal assistance. Holding Redlich assigned an articled clerk by the name of Sean McLaughlin, who would later go on to work as an advisor to Robert Tickner during his term as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, to the case. There was simply no money to pay Holding Redlich for this support.
Greg McIntyre's difficulties in juggling his dual responsibilities were particularly pronounced during the protracted hearings into the disputed facts which took place before Justice Moynihan in Brisbane and the Torres Strait between May and September 1989. Mr McIntyre utilised his annual recreation and all other accumulated leave to work on the first 6 weeks of the hearing. When his leave was exhausted there was no choice but to return to his employment in Perth. Again Ron Castan assisted with the solution: his daughter Melissa Castan and son-in-law Robert Lehrer agreed to assist for the remainder of the hearing.
According to Greg McIntyre, Ron Castan's generosity 'effectively under-wrote the whole claim'. For example, in order to save costs, Greg McIntyre would always stay with the Castans during those periods when the legal team was bunkered down in Melbourne preparing submissions for the High Court. Mr McIntyre also recalls a substantial loan made by Mr Castan in order to meet the travel and accommodation costs of witnesses from the Murray Islands who were needed to give evidence in Brisbane.
On another occasion, barrister Bryan Keon-Cohen agreed to take the risky and expensive step of relocating his young family to Brisbane for the 1989 hearings, which necessitated changes of school for his children and leasing of their home in Melbourne. The problem was that an expected further grant of funding for the case had not yet materialised. Bryan Keon Cohen had uprooting his family and was now about to embark on a hearing where there was as yet no funding to pay either his fees or those of the other lawyers acting for the plaintiffs. Again, Ron Castan stepped in, this time with an offer to guarantee the rent being paid by the Keon-Cohens. Both Ron Castan QC and Bryan Keon-Cohen, worked throughout the 10 years of the case for vastly reduced and often negligible fees.
In an interview with the filmmaker Trevor Graham, Greg McIntyre also referred to the financial sacrifices made by Eddie Mabo and the Mabo family in order to keep the case alive:
'How did the mechanics of it work? Eddie was in Townsville, Bryan was in Melbourne, Ron Castan was in Melbourne - did that require much travel?'
'Not really, I mean we, because we had fairly limited funds it was often an issue as to whether we had an airfare to go anywhere. He [Eddie Mabo] often travelled using his own money, out of his pension, or whatever limited funds he had, and ... that was another manifestation of his understanding and commitment to [the case] ... I used some of my own credit cards from time to time, but I always had some expectation I might get the money back, but Eddie actually spent his own money and put a lot of his own time and effort into it for no return ...'
'How was Eddie living financially through all of this?'
'On nothing as far as I could tell. You know, I managed to get the Attorney-General's Department to pay for the hotel [during the hearing before Justice Moynihan in Brisbane in 1989]. Well he and I moved into a cheaper hotel so that we could spread the money around a bit more amongst the seven or so witnesses we brought down, and that was being paid for by the Attorney-General's Department, but there was no extra spending money. I mean it was pretty limited.'
Keywords: Aboriginal Legal Service, barristers, Castan, Ron, funding, Keon-Cohen, Bryan, Mabo Case, Mabo, Edward Koiki, McIntyre, Greg, Moynihan, Justice Martin, plaintiffs, Tickner, Robert
Author: Kenna, Jonathan