Barrister son admits mum to law in Ausssie first
Queensland barrister Joshua Creamer doesn't chase the spotlight. But ask anyone in the legal profession about him and you'll get almost exactly the same response: "Oh Josh? He's such a good guy".
When you meet his mother, Sandra Creamer, it's not hard to see where the Waanyi and Kalkadoon man got his humility from.
Joshua has learned a lot from his mother.
She taught him about hard work and resilience and about right and wrong - the qualities that have led to him arguably becoming Queensland's leading native title and human rights barrister.
Joshua also learned about domestic violence after watching her being beaten by his step-father at their home in Mount Isa from a young age.
"Me being the oldest and a stepkid, I copped physical abuse too and the reality is that when you come out of that, we all had some sort of level of PTSD," the 38 year old tells Qweekend, saying his mother moved with her children to Yeppoon to make a new start about the time he started high school at St Brendan's College.
In the years since, Sandra has become a champion for Indigenous rights. The elder is the chief executive officer of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women's Alliance and an Adjunct Professor of Public Health at the University of Queensland. In July, she added a new string to her bow and was admitted to practice as a solicitor.
Joshua moved her admission to the legal profession, in what is believed to be the first mother/son Indigenous admission in Australia. In a Twitter post that went viral, the barrister described his mother as a humble role model "for all those Indigenous mothers who put their dreams on hold".
He said his mother had always believed in him, which built his own confidence in his abilities and it was time to repay the favour. "People don't understand how difficult it is to get admitted," Joshua explains.
"From speeding fines to Centrelink over-payments, things most people now come up against in their daily life, they can be something that counts against you. So for mum to be able to pass through that threshold after all the challenges she has had in life is a huge accomplishment."
Sandra is the youngest of 12 children and was raised by her father after her mother passed away when she was just six months old. Her father worked hard and never complained so that he could send her to boarding school.
Sandra was later asked to leave the school in Grade 9 alongside another girl for no other reason than their Aboriginality.
She says she doesn't hold that against anyone. She says everything happens for a reason and those at the school just didn't understand kids from Indigenous families back then.
"If that had never happened, I never would have gone to business school," Sandra says.
She studied her law degree externally through Deakin University, starting about the same time as her son, who was studying through Griffith University. She was a single mother of four kids at the time and babysat to pay the bills.
"For women in DV relationships who think they can't escape, I just want them to know that their life doesn't have to end here," the elder says from her home in Yeppoon.
"There is life out there. Just aim for something, not too big, but aim for something and week by week give yourself a vision to a new life."
Joshua moving Sandra's admission was the end of a long journey they had walked side-by-side.
"Joshua and I, we have overcome things together," the proud mother says.
"That's what you have to do in life and it doesn't matter who you are, what race you are, if you keep together as a family, show your children about determination and resilience, you can keep moving ahead."
She is now studying for the bar exam and hoping to become a barrister.
Her son is one of only six Indigenous barristers in the state, although growing up he never thought he would see a world outside a job in the mines.
"I probably had three choices: to work in the mines, the local council depot or unfortunately, suicide," he says. "In mum's family, her brothers all got trades. They were boilermakers in the mines and in the 1960s and 1970s, for an Aboriginal family, the highest level of education was receiving an apprenticeship."
Joshua has represented Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in some of Queensland's most high-profile cases, including the stolen wages class action involving Hans Pearson, Noel Pearson's uncle. The case led to a landmark finding in favour of those who worked in Queensland prior to 1973 and had their wages controlled by the government. In July last year, the case settled for $190 million - Australia's largest class action settlement involving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
Joshua also worked to secure a $30 million payout and apology to Palm Island residents brought by Lex Wotton against Queensland Police Service and the state of Queensland. The court found police had engaged in racial discrimination in relation to the investigation into the death of Mulrunji Doomadgee and had mishandled their response to the riots by Palm Islanders that followed the death in custody. Wotton, an Aboriginal elder and Palm Island Councillor, was in 2008 jailed for his role in the infamous protests that occurred four years earlier.
The barrister began his career in law working for prominent Gold Coast lawyer Chris Nyst, who described Joshua as having a "quiet dignity and strength of character" and agrees he isn't one to get his face on the news or chase kudos.
"He doesn't make a big performance of anything, he moves at his own pace and gets the job done without any ego," Chris says, adding that the barrister shines when on his feet in court.
"Sometimes you have to be willing to take a few hits yourself to advance the interests of your client and Josh isn't afraid to do that either."
Joshua met the other strong woman in his life, Kara Cook, in unlikely circumstances.
Kara, too, began her career in law before becoming one of Brisbane's local councillors. The pair have a lot to thank the Yeppoon Pineapple Festival for, as it was the catalyst that brought them together.
But it wasn't until years after Kara was crowned fundraising queen at the annual Capricorn Coast event that her future husband had the opportunity to speak to her about her title.
It was 2004 and Joshua was a butcher in the beachside town who was studying to become a lawyer. He has always been good at gathering evidence, though, so when he bumped into Kara at a Yeppoon pub, Joshua was quick to bring up the fact he'd seen the 19 year old in the local paper two years earlier as Pineapple Queen.
"I remembered that in the story she said she wanted to be a lawyer in the navy and that was one thing that stuck with me," Joshua says from the pair's home at Morningside in Brisbane's east.
In a self-proclaimed witty pick-up line, he asked Kara if she ended up joining the popular US Navy TV show JAG.
"And then I told her I was studying law and how good I was," he adds.
Kara, who was studying business at the time, said the conversation made her realise she actually had wanted to be a lawyer all along.
She applied for law school that night. Some time later, Joshua bumped into Kara by chance at the local sailing club in Yeppoon where she worked.
"I told him I had applied for law school and I was moving away for university in a week. We spent the next few days inseparable and have been that way for the past 16 years," Kara says.
Joshua and Kara now have two children - Eden, 6, and Rita, 3 - and are expecting their third baby next year. While they have grown to become one of Brisbane's power couples, their children remain the centre of their lives.
In her work, Kara said she genuinely cares about people and the small things that make big differences in their lives.
As a councillor she is known for being passionate about issues including domestic violence, the impact of large developments on small communities or securing funding for a new youth centre in her home suburb.
Since her election in 2018, the deputy leader of the Opposition and councillor for Morningside has strongly advocated for equality at City Hall, making a formal complaint to the council CEO after being cat-called in the chamber last year.
"The standard you walk past is the standard you accept and no woman should be subjected to this schoolyard rubbish," she told journalists at the time.
The 35 year old already had years of experience standing up for women before she made headlines following the sexist incident. She started Australia's first specialised domestic violence law firm after working at Queensland Women's Legal Service in Brisbane before entering politics.
The young mother talks about the values her parents instilled in her with profound sincerity. "I have enjoyed all my jobs for the same reason - people," Kara says.
"For me, it's about helping others and I've been lucky with the jobs I've done because they have fit closely with my values.
"It's been important for me to use my skills and abilities to make a difference and Josh and I have that in common in terms of our desire to help."
Kara is surprisingly relaxed about what appears to be a very full-to-the-brim life.
Her husband is the same. "You do just make it all work," Josh says.
"We probably are the first generation with that expectation that both parents will be equally successful. It is challenging to juggle it all and support each other but our main priority is the kids and we always make sure someone is with them."
"I'm glad our kids grow up without expectation that women do one thing and men do another, it's about an equality that exists and, to be honest, in our house mum is more important, she's on the billboards," Joshua says.
Kara says she doesn't believe in hiding her role as a mother from public life. "I always try to take the children to things because I want people to recognise that even though I have that public aspect of my life, I do have children and I want young women to know it can be done," she says.
As for Pinefest in their hometown? Joshua and Kara haven't missed a year yet.
Originally published as 'My role model': Barrister son admits mum to law in Ausssie first