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Forging greater Indigenous links

News

Cite as: March 2011 85(3) LIJ, p.26

An LIV initiative promises to strengthen ties between Indigenous Australians and the legal profession.

By Jason Gregory

Legal practitioners wishing to help Indigenous Australians now have an LIV-created list to help point them in the right direction.

The list (see opposite) promotes more than 20 organisations run by – or that work closely with – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) communities.

The LIV hopes this initiative will encourage lawyers and law firms to engage with ATSI people and communities in a variety of ways that will, among other aims, help promote education for young people.

The list – also found online at http://bit.ly/eGBtX4 – is the latest development in the LIV’s work towards reconciliation and was the brainchild of 2009 LIV president Danny Barlow.

Mr Barlow said he was pleased to be involved in developing the publication with LIV staff, including LIJ editor Mick Paskos, policy adviser Laura Helm and Administrative Law and Human Rights Section paralegal Julia Strickett, and Victoria Law Foundation intern Jacqueline Carr.

“There are so many fantastic Indigenous organisations out there and I am sure that Victorian lawyers would like to offer their support in a practical way but sometimes don’t know how to take the first step,” he said.

“I think this can be a bridge between the legal profession and some of those organisations.”

One such organisation is the Shepparton-based Rumbalara Football Netball Club, which works to empower young people and strengthen their life skills, emotional wellbeing, identity and self-esteem through their passion for sport.

Club president Paul Briggs said lawyers could play a variety of roles within the club, from helping with corporate governance tasks such as redeveloping the constitution to volunteering with the club on match days.

“By linking in with the LIV we hope that Rumbalara can be used as a spear tip for community change in challenging generational attitudes and stereotypes,” Mr Briggs said.

“We believe Aboriginal over-representation in the justice system can be best addressed by raising self-esteem and a sense of control through building local role models.”

Other LIV initiatives supporting Indigenous Australians in recent years have included working with the Victorian Bar to introduce Australia’s first equal opportunity briefing policy for ATSI barristers in 2009 (see http://bit.ly/hH6pf3).

In 2008 the LIV created an annual bursary for an Indigenous law student to complete their practical legal training at the College of Law and in 2006 issued a policy statement on Indigenous Australians in the legal profession and justice system.

The LIV houses Tarwirri – the Indigenous Law Students and Lawyers Association of Victoria – and in 2007 the LIJ published an investigative series into the status of Victoria’s Indigenous lawyers.

The LIV has also created an Indigenous Issues and Aboriginal Reconciliation Committee.

That committee recently pledged to work with Victorian Indigenous people and Reconciliation Australia to develop a reconciliation action plan (RAP) aimed at building meaningful relationships with Victorian Indigenous communities and “closing the gap” in Indigenous representation in the legal profession.

Areas to be examined for the RAP include legal and non-legal employment opportunities, cultural awareness training, youth issues and Indigenous rights.

The LIV will consult with regionally-based Indigenous groups this year as part of its work on the RAP.

Committee and RAP working group chair Brendan Loizou said the LIV RAP was an attempt at building a lasting relationship between ATSI – particularly the Koori people of Victoria – and non-ATSI people.

Organisations that wish to be included in the list can contact Julia Strickett at jstrickett@liv.asn.au.

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