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Native Title & Public Interest Law

Native Title & Public Interest Law

Our experience

Giving back to the community has always been and will continue to be a core value at Arnold Bloch Leibler. Today, we represent a diverse group of public interest, charitable and not-for-profit organisations on a pro bono basis, as well as many organisations and communities progressing their native title and land rights aspirations.

“ABL is wholehearted in its support and that shows in the quality of the advice. They go the extra mile and are in the trenches with you.”

ABL client quote, Chambers Asia Pacific 2017

We aim to make a real and valuable contribution to civil society by offering strategic legal advice in the public interest to defend or assert rights, develop the law or improve the administration of justice. Our clients are active in the cultural, health, religious, Indigenous and environmental sectors.

Our efforts have achieved significant outcomes for a wide variety of people. We have contributed to legislative reform and played a part in improving the understanding of social issues. 

We also advise not-for-profit groups on critically important corporate governance and associated legal matters, including how best to structure their not-for-profit operations to help achieve tax exempt and deductible gift recipient status. This work is crucial to ensure their financial viability.

The firm is deeply committed to Indigenous capacity building endeavours and we have partnered with a broad variety of Indigenous organisations and community groups to assist them in their efforts. Our lawyers work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and causes to establish the commercial structures that will enable them to fulfil their cultural and environmental responsibilities to their traditional lands, in caring for country, kith and kin. 

The firm’s reconciliation work preceded the establishment of Reconciliation Australia’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) program and we became the first law firm to develop a RAP in 2008, as part of the group of trailblazers who launched the program.

ABL is also heavily involved in the campaign for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander recognition and the removal of racially discriminatory provisions in the Constitution, with our Senior Partner, Mark Leibler AC, appointed as co-chair of the Federal Government’s Referendum Council on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

Committed partnerships

Many of our public interest law clients are tackling deeply ingrained social barriers and obstacles that they seek to overcome through implementation of long-term visions.  We are committed to each client and each project undertaken, no matter how long the journey or how hard the path to achieve the desired outcomes.

We have represented the Yorta Yorta Aboriginal Nation since 1993 in their native title determination efforts and well beyond.  After decades of legal setbacks, we remain steadfast in our commitment to support the Yorta Yorta peoples and communities like them in their struggles for justice.

Our approach to public interest law

Our public interest law services are co-ordinated through a dedicated public interest law practice that is both well-known and widely respected by the legal, business and not-for-profit sectors. The way in which we manage the public interest law practice and deliver services to the community is as important as the work itself.

During the 2016 financial year, lawyers at ABL collectively carried out 7,895 hours of pro-bono, public interest law work, valued at approximately $4.3 million. This equates to an average for each ABL lawyer of 71 hours of pro-bono legal services each year, more than double the voluntary target of 35 hours per lawyer set by the Australian Pro-Bono Centre. We are very proud of the fact we have maintained approximately the same ‘double the national target’ average consistently for well over a decade.

At ABL, there is no distinction between paid and non-paid work.  As with other practice areas, the public interest law practice is managed by a full-time partner.  Peter Seidel, who heads this practice area, is also board member of the Wantok Musik Foundation. 

The practice draws together lawyers from relevant disciplines across the firm,  including corporate, dispute resolution and taxation law.

Native title and land rights

ABL’s native title and land rights practice offers advice to some of the most vulnerable communities in the country. Our practice assists with determination applications, development negotiations, Indigenous Land Use Agreements, negotiating and drafting associated documents (including trust deeds, rules, powers of attorney, constitutions and the like), seeking tax concession for groups, establishing corporate structures and providing related legislative and policy advice.

The firm has resolved several potential disputes to ensure co-existent land uses and interests and mediated outcomes that are satisfactory to all. Our ongoing involvement with various Indigenous entities and peoples has afforded the firm invaluable knowledge of the commercial and litigious aspects of native title, land rights and related Indigenous issues.

Recent native title and land rights work

Other features

Public policy formulation

Our lawyers apply legal research, analytical and writing skills to assist in public policy formulation. They also serve as board members on numerous community organisations, from the arts and higher education to advanced scientific research.

Taxation

We advise charitable and not-for-profit organisations on the most tax-effective corporate structures and help them to prepare submissions to the Australian Taxation Office seeking charitable and not-for-profit status.

Litigation

Our team has experience in a range of test case disputes, including property, employment and human rights issues, particularly in relation to racial and other forms of discrimination, including the recent seminal case of Haile Michael and Others ats Victorian Commissioner of Police and Others, in which we acted on behalf of the complainants as co-advocates with Flemington Kensington Community Legal Centre.

We represent our public interest law clients in all jurisdictions, including State, Federal and High Court jurisdictions.

Key clients

Arnold Bloch Leibler acts for more than 150 not-for-profits and community causes on a pro bono basis, comprising clients active in the cultural, health, religious, Indigenous and environmental sectors across a range of public interest law issues. Organisations we work with in both our pro-bono public interest law and native title practices include:

  • Anindilyakwa Land Council
  • Australian Conservation Foundation
  • Children’s Cancer Institute Australia
  • Goldfields Land and Sea Council
  • Heide Museum of Modern Art
  • The Lowitja Institute
  • National Council of Jewish Women of Australia (Vic) Inc
  • Native Title Services Victoria
  • Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
  • Reconciliation Australia and Recognise
  • Stand Up - Jewish Commitment to a Better World
  • Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation
  • Wantok Musik Foundation
  • Yamatji Malpa Aboriginal Corporation
  • Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation.

‘They are our preferred counsel. They are very good on client service - we don’t want for anything.’

ABL client quote, Chambers Asia Pacific 2016