This is an anatomically-realistic 3D brain visualization depicting real-time source-localized activity (power and "effective" connectivity) from EEG (electroencephalographic) signals. Each color represents source power and connectivity in a different frequency band (theta, alpha, beta, gamma) and the golden lines are white matter anatomical fiber tracts. Estimated information transfer between brain regions is visualized as pulses of light flowing along the fiber tracts connecting the regions.
"How far that little candle throws its beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world.
When most people think of advocates for justice and equality, images of Martin Luther King Junior, Ghandi or Nelson Mandela may come to mind. As inspiring as these people are, it’s a shame that we don’t – or can’t – recall the everyday warriors who have made a positive difference. Ken Fleming QC is one such person. The barrister, who is better known as ‘Patel’s lawyer,’ has spent his entire career hunting for justice and equality.
Sitting in Ken Fleming’s office, I am surrounded by African art; tribal paintings, masks and statues cover the walls, adorn the well-stocked bookshelf and line the window sill. As Ken takes a seat opposite me, his tie-less business shirt unbuttoned at the top, he notices my admiration of one particular piece on his wall. “I bought that in Africa,” he says, nodding toward the colourful artwork. The painting, with its rich and earthy tones, features animals and warriors from the Maasai tribe of Kenya and Tanzania.
Ken leans back in his chair, his tall and solid frame relaxed. “The painting is based on the biblical story of a lion and rhino sleeping side by side. It shows all the animals living together in harmony, and humans living together in harmony. The Maasai have a tradition of promoting that [peace and harmony].” Ken pauses, shifting his eyes to the painting. “The artist, Julika, said it shows a peaceful co-existence of humans and animals, equality of all living things.”
“I must get a photo of it when I get one of you,” I comment. Ken looks at me with a glint in his eye. “Will I have to put a tie on?” he says, and then roars with laughter. His natural charisma and warmth instantly puts me at ease, making my nerves about speaking to such a prominent man disappear.
Ken puts his hands behind his greying head. His genuine willingness to take time out of his busy schedule to share his story is humbling. Currently in the midst of his highly-publicised criminal defence of Dr Jayant Patel, the case that led him to become known as ‘Patel’s lawyer,’ Ken is a very busy man.
After a brief pause, the Brisbane native begins to explain how he began his working life as a cadet government health inspector. He later completed two years National Service in the Vietnam era, then worked with his father as a farmer. Ken always knew, though, that he wanted to pursue a career in law.
“I was in my teens when I decided I wanted to become a lawyer. I think that my desire was about wanting justice and fairness for all. I’m passionate about the fairness and equality that people should experience in life, and I just hate injustice wherever it is. I don’t know why, I just do, and I’ve always felt like that. I’ve always wanted to help achieve equality, a fair society.”
The passion in Ken’s voice when he speaks of equality is genuine, not surprising for someone who has devoted his entire life and career to helping others.
Ken graduated with a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Queensland in 1975. He was admitted to the Bar the following year and ‘took silk’ as a Queen’s Counsel in November 1988, an opportunity which ultimately allowed him to focus more on advocacy and his passion for justice and equality.
“I should say that I left school during grade eleven,” Ken adds with a grin. “I completed grade twelve at night school.” He pauses. “It really is possible to do anything you put your mind to.”
Ken is now regarded as one of Queensland’s most experienced and respected Barristers, having worked on some of the most high-profile cases throughout the Pacific. Fuelled by his passion for justice and equality, Ken also spent many years working in Africa.
From 1999 to 2002, he was a full-time Prosecutor for the United Nations International Crime Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), located in Arusha, Tanzania. The Court was established after the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, during which 20% of the country's population was killed in only 100 days.
“I have always had an interest in Africa, and had a particular interest in the genocide that occurred in Rwanda. Working on the ICTR was an opportunity to do something broader than just here in Australia, and an opportunity to take a stand for equality and justice.”
Among other positions at the ICTR, Ken became Acting Chief of Prosecutions, Acting Deputy Prosecutor and Senior Trial Attorney. He was responsible for prosecuting leaders and Government Ministers involved in the Rwandan genocide. Ken also helped oversee the development of a much-needed Act to define genocide and create genocide laws. When I hear this, I am awed that the genuine and relaxed man before me oversaw the development of such vital laws that are still used today.
“We were effectively making new law all the time, which was the interesting thing about it. We were working cross-culturally with people all around the world, attempting to redress one of the major events of the 20th century. I’m privileged to have worked in it all. They were certainly three of the most interesting years of my life.”
Ken pauses for a moment, then sighs. “The work [on the ICTR] did overwhelm me from time to time. Three years doing that perpetually was a very difficult task. The last crime I prosecuted involved 32 000 people being killed in three days, so you just can’t get your head around that. On weekends, we used to go out into the great national parks and watch the animals to try to forget about it for a while.”
Ken glances at the painting on his wall, and I begin to understand why he must have been so drawn to it. Animals seem to have a sense of equality that humans can’t quite grasp. The peaceful, harmonious nature of animals that are typically predators is enlightening, as is the presence of Maasai people among creatures that would normally make humans flee. As I follow Ken’s gaze, I am suddenly aware of two lions and a few Maasai warriors with shocked expressions. Surrounded by peace and harmony, they seem to be stunned by the injustice and inequality around them.
Whilst working within the ICTR, Ken also became the Interim Prosecutor for the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) that was established after the civil war. Hearing him describe some of the cases he prosecuted there and on the ICTR, I can only imagine how deeply the incomprehensible acts of prejudice and racism must have affected him. Yet I can also imagine that the work made him even more passionate about justice and equality than ever before.
Ken’s deep passion for justice and equality clearly underpins his every thought and deed, so it is disheartening that, given his extraordinary background, many simply know him as ‘Patel’s lawyer.’ In 2010, he began acting in the appeal and trials for Indian-born surgeon Dr Jayant Patel, almost on a pro bono basis.
“I thought he [Dr Patel] was being treated unjustly and unfairly. His first trial was just bigoted attitudes all the way through.”
When discussing his experience in Africa, Ken remarked, “I don’t think we understand racism very well. We think that racism is the overt actions that we see, like someone abused. But I think racism is more insidious and somehow or other, that has to be tackled.” A fitting statement when the treatment of Dr Patel is examined. As Darren Moore, a senior Queensland solicitor, and other members of the legal fraternity believe, “Even if not racist, Patel’s treatment was certainly unjust and inequitable.” Given Ken’s strong passion for equality and justice, it is no wonder he was so prepared to hunt for justice for the doctor.
“Coming back from places like Africa, you think ‘Oh, this isn’t important, practising law here.’ Everything there was just so big and important. But practising law in Australia is important, too. And for me, justice for Dr Patel’s is equally important as justice in Africa.”
Renowned criminal solicitor Richard Carew, of Carew Lawyers, has witnessed Ken’s passion for justice and equality.
“I have known Ken Fleming for many years. In that time I have witnessed him come to the rescue of several people in need of legal representation but who have been unable to afford it and who have not been eligible for government funded legal aid. Ken’s commitment to justice and a fair trial is genuine. On a number of occasions he has represented people for no fee. He deserves praise and recognition for this.”
After thirty-eight years of practise as a lawyer, Ken’s passion for equality and justice keeps him determined to continue his work in the years to come. What would he like to do in the future?
“Sit on a beach… Oh no, don’t write that!” he grins and chuckles. “No, I’d like to be more selective and slow down a little bit, but I’ll keep doing this.” Ken leans forward excitedly and says, “I’d definitely like to do some more overseas consultancies with the UN.” His eyes show his excitement at the prospect of working further with the United Nations. Between two African tribal masks on the window sill lays a plaque awarded to Ken in acknowledgment of his work with the UN, something he is clearly proud of.
Ken pauses and takes another look at the painting hanging on his wall. “Our sense of equality and justice is developing, and our attitudes are changing little by little. But I won’t stop working until we can live together in harmony… Like the animals and the Maasai people,” he smiles. “I won’t stop until there is complete equality and justice. I can’t stop; that passion for justice and equality is ingrained in me.”
Ken Fleming is certainly a man who practises what he preaches, someone whose genuine desire to help achieve a fair, peaceful and harmonious society is at the heart of his every thought and deed. Perhaps one day Australians will recognise him not as ‘Patel’s lawyer’ but as a warrior hunting for justice and equality, a true Australian Maasai.