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LIV President's Blog 2012

LIV President's Blog 2013

Reynah Tang, LIV President 2013 on the latest issues and topics. Read and comment.

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The road to reconciliation

The road to reconciliation

I have been talking quite a lot about diversity this year. One area where we as a society need to do more work is in providing greater recognition of – and improving equity for – Australia’s Indigenous people.

From the perspective of the Law Institute of Victoria, this means identifying ways that we can boost the number of talented Indigenous people in the legal profession. And it means advocating for access to justice for Indigenous people – who remain among our most disadvantaged.

One way I feel we have made at least some impact is in the LIV bursary for a law graduate of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent, to undertake practical legal training as a precursor to admission as a lawyer. Usually, the recipient has endured some kind of hardship and has defied the odds stacked against them. They will also have stood out by doing some volunteer work to demonstrate their commitment to the profession and desire to give back to their community.

Together with Maria Lovison, a lawyer at Native Title Services Victoria (and past bursary recipient) and Elspeth McNeil, the program director at the College of Law Victoria (COLV) – we have begun the process of interviewing applicants for this year’s bursary. By the end of the month, the recipient will be chosen, and can go on to complete their professional program at COLV, courtesy of the LIV.

While the funding is important, we cannot underestimate the challenges that confront our applicants who in some cases are the first in their community to undertake a university degree, let alone proceed to get admitted to the legal profession.  For this reason, the LIV will help to put them in touch with prior recipients and provide access to solicitor mentors.

Walking in their shoes

Judging by the whereabouts of some past recipients, the bursary can be an excellent launching pad to a rewarding career. Maria Lovison is a good example of this. Another past recipient is doing a PhD at Melbourne University. He is expected to be the first Aboriginal PhD graduate from Melbourne Law School.

The LIV bursary is a good way we can help provide an incentive for Indigenous law students to not only enter the field of law, but to stick with it.

This is a good start, but there is still more to do. For tangible change to occur, we need to provide the Indigenous community with real opportunities, such as connecting them with employment.  Some firms, such as Allens Linklaters and Arnold Bloch Leibler are already active in this space.  However, all members can play their part in considering Indigenous law graduates for positions in their firms.

Reaching the line on Constitutional recognition

It has been five years since the Federal Government’s historic apology to the stolen generations – an apology that was long overdue. But the LIV believes we need to go further, and give our nation’s traditional landowners the recognition in our constitution that they have long deserved. For this to happen there’s a requirement for a referendum, which are notoriously difficult to win due to the majorities required. It is incumbent on our governments to educate the community on why this change to the constitution is so meaningful, so that people are better informed when they vote.

Last year, Michael Holcroft, my predecessor as president, launched the LIV’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). It aims to promote equality and improve access to justice for Indigenous people, who remain over-represented in the criminal justice system. Both the Law Council of Australia and the Victorian Bar also have RAPs in place.

The LIV wants to build good relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people based on trust and respect. We committed to reporting once a year on the progress of our RAP to Reconciliation Australia. We are working through our objectives and making progress.

In conjunction with the Victorian Bar, we have also adopted an Indigenous Equal Opportunity Briefing policy. And I also would like to acknowledge the good work of Tarwirri, the Indigenous Law Students and Lawyers Association of Victoria, which is housed at the LIV.

There is much that we can all do to help Close the Gap. I call on you to get involved, chip in, and make a difference.

How do you feel that you can help Close the Gap?

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David Andrewartha
A copy of the LIV RAP is available at
14/06/2013 12:23:30 PM

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