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Indigenous projects recognised in grants

News

Cite as: (2008) 82(6) LIJ, p. 32

The LSB has approved grants aimed at enhancing access to justice, with four of them involving projects for indigenous Australians.

Tarwirri – the Indigenous Law Students and Lawyers Association of Victoria – is going into the movie business.

It has received funding from the Legal Services Board (LSB) Grants Program to develop a DVD featuring profiles and interviews with Indigenous role models in the legal profession.

The Tarwirri DVD was one of 26 projects that received $1.1 million in funding, announced in April.

Of the remaining 25 projects, three others were concerned with boosting Indigenous input into the legal system. The LIV also had one project approved – the retrospective publication online of the LIJ.

Tarwirri coordinator Aislinn Martin said the DVD’s purpose was to educate the Indigenous community about pathways into the legal profession.

“It will feature people talking about their personal experience and detail some of the obstacles they have overcome,” Ms Martin said.

“It will be a DVD of positive messages.”

In its submission to the LSB, Tarwirri said the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC), established in 1989, and recent LIJ articles (beginning in August 2007) had highlighted the lack of Indigenous representation in the legal profession.

“Too few Indigenous people are professionally employed in the law, too many Indigenous people are involved in the legal system as defendants.

“It is not necessary to refer to literature on this issue because one only has to read the paper each day to have an awareness of the social and legal disadvantages of Indigenous people.

“This is the very reason why this project is needed – to break down barriers and to provide tangible pathways into the legal profession,” the submission said.

The DVD will be sent to secondary schools and distributed among careers teachers.

Tarwirri received nearly $30,000 for the DVD production and it is hoped to have it completed by the end of this year.

More than $47,000 has been awarded to a pilot Indigenous Associate Program that will help Indigenous law students undertake training at the Supreme Court.

This program also aims to address the issue of under representation of Indigenous people within the legal profession and it is expected the associateship will be in place soon.

It is hoped the Indigenous associateship at the Court will be one way of providing assistance and greater opportunities for Indigenous students to experience the legal profession, and more specifically, litigation.

Other projects aimed at Indigenous Australians in the law included a grant to develop collaborative approaches to Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Protection put forward by the Sir Zelman Cowen Centre and Victoria University, and the Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service Victoria’s request to establish a policy development and advocacy focus in FVPLS Victoria.

The LIV was also successful in receiving a grant to facilitate retrospective online publication of the LIJ (1997-2002) on the LIV website.

The key objectives of the project are to increase and improve accessibility to legal information for the profession and the community, enhance the usability of information through the inclusion of hyperlinks and cross-referencing and provide a comprehensive archive of the LIJ supported by LIV document delivery services.

LIV Information Services general manager Sue Woodman said the project was needed to meet an increased demand for access to interactive and value-added information, and for information in the right format at the right time.

“We also had the support of the Australasian Legal Information Institute (AustLII),” Ms Woodman said.

The LIV is also in discussion with AustLII about the possibility of having the online LIJ on the AustLII site.

The grants program is funded by the Public Purpose Fund which is administered by the LSB. Applications for the first round of grants (up to $50,000) closed in November last year, while applications for the second round of grants (more than $50,000) closed in March.

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