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Pro bono: The art of giving

Every Issue

Cite as: December 2015 89 (12) LIJ, p.73

The Adopt a Lawyer program is an opportunity to provide pro bono services to Australia's arts and Indigenous communities. 

  • Get involved by:
  • visiting and to view Artists in the Black animation videos for contracts, copyright and wills
  • contacting Jacqueline Cornforth, AITB coordinator at Arts Law, for more information about how to join the pro bono lawyer panel or to find out more about the Adopt a Lawyer program 02 9356 2566 or
  • supporting Arts Law and Artists in the Black and its work for artists and the arts community of Australia with a financial donation.
  • The unmet legal needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have long been disproportionately greater than the rest of Australia, and a particular niche has been that of Indigenous artists.

    An unfortunate downside to the growth and diversity of the Indigenous arts sector is the growing risk of exploitation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists’ intellectual property. Fortunately, the Artists in the Black (AITB) project of Arts Law represents and advocates for the legal rights of these artists, as well as provides an opportunity for pro bono lawyers to give back to the community while learning more about the first Australians.

    In particular, AITB’s Adopt a Lawyer program is proving effective for artists and law firms. This program partners Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community arts centres with an experienced law firm for a three-year partnership. Adopt a Lawyer is designed to build on the existing AITB support of community art centres by creating one-on-one relationships between individual art centres and a single law firm, enabling art centres to contact the law firm directly for legal advice.

    The lawyers enjoy a closer relationship and understanding of Australia’s Indigenous culture and help build sustainable creative practices in some of the most remote areas of Australia.

    At the start of 2014, Warmun Art Centre “adopted” Lander and Rogers. Warmun Art Centre is two hours south of Kununurra WA in a community of approximately 400 people. The art centre is owned and governed by Gija people with 100 per cent of income returning to the community. It is the cultural and artistic hub of the Warmun community in the East Kimberley. In June 2014, four lawyers from Lander and Rogers visited Warmun Art Centre for one week and then decided to second a lawyer to the art centre for a further 10 weeks to work through the many legal issues facing the art centre.

    More than 100 Indigenous art centres across Australia are in need of legal assistance. The Adopt a Lawyer program is just one of many opportunities to provide pro bono services to Australia’s arts and Indigenous communities. Arts Law appreciates the support of the Victorian pro bono lawyers and law firms on its panel and would like to encourage more lawyers and law firms in Victoria to help support Australia’s arts communities.

    Jacqueline Cornforth is the Artists in the Black coordinator at Arts Law. This column is coordinated by Justice Connect.


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