Michelle Kelly, 58, started studying law at the Southern Cross University when she was part of the Gunnedah Environment Group that was lobbying for restrictions on aerial pesticide spraying. “I had a baby daughter and was almost finished a Bachelor of Arts in geography and planning by distance education at the University of New England,” Kelly says. “The more I went into the planning and regulation side of it, the more I realised I needed to know the law. It was very empowering.” Kelly’s marriage to a cattle farmer ended in 1995 and she moved to Lismore to work at the Family Support Network as a contact supervisor of children in care. Once she graduated with her law degree, she worked for Family and Community Services representing the department in care and protection cases. “Many of the cases were heartbreaking,” she says. “I used to think with every case that I did, if it’s not okay for my kid, it’s not okay for this kid.” Earlier this year, Kelly started a small private firm in Lismore, called Everyday Legal, with Amanda Mead. She shares her passion for practising law in regional with LSJ.
“In 1990 I was living on a farm at Gunnedah and married to a farmer. I had started to notice changes in the environment. One thing led to another and I ended up forming the Gunnedah Environment Group. We started to ask questions about the recent move of the cotton industry into our area.
My daughter had just been born. The real turning point, when I became very angry, was cotton was growing all around us and there were no regulations for aerial spraying. We used to get drift of the chemicals and we lived on rainwater. One day you could smell it really strongly in the house and my daughter, Bianca, was outside. She came running in with a bleeding nose. I was convinced the pesticides made it happen.