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Indigenous Solidarity

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Acknowledgement of Country & note on language

Arnold Bloch Leibler acknowledges and pays respect to the Traditional Custodians of country all over Australia. We acknowledge and respect the fact that many Traditional Custodians maintain their sovereignty, which has never been ceded. 

Our firm’s offices are based in Melbourne on the lands of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation, and in Sydney on the lands of the Gadigal People of the Eora Nation.

Throughout this site, we use the terms ‘Aboriginal’, ‘Torres Strait Islander’, ‘Indigenous’ and ‘First Nations Peoples’ interchangeably to refer to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who have inhabited and who have remained connected to this land for more than 60,000 years. In using this language, we seek to acknowledge the diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and identities across Australia.

Indigenous Solidarity Statement of Commitment

For nearly 30 years, Arnold Bloch Leibler has worked with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, organisations and individuals, often pro bono, on matters and issues that go to the heart of their resolve to achieve Indigenous self-determination.

We understand that for many Indigenous Australians, the language of reconciliation no longer best captures the imperative of self-determination.

Arnold Bloch Leibler immediately and publicly accepted the invitation contained in the Uluru Statement from the Heart to walk together with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in a movement of the Australian people for a better future. And in 2019, our Reconciliation Action Plan Committee was renamed the Arnold Bloch Leibler Indigenous Solidarity Network (AISN).

The language of solidarity captures the responsibilities and obligations of the firm’s non-Indigenous partners and staff, and better reflects our long-held view that the reality of our shared aspirations will only be achieved by continuing to work alongside each other.

The Arnold Bloch Leibler Indigenous Solidarity Statement of Commitment describes this approach, and how we will adopt it in realising specific objectives and priorities for 2021-2022, as Australia and the world emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Statement is intended as a living document that we will continually adapt in line with the priorities of Indigenous clients and friends, many of whom have provided their own messages of solidarity within the Statement.

To ensure we review, monitor and measure this important aspect of the firm’s work, we will report annually on progress against our stated objectives and priorities, utilising a specially designed impact model.

"This Statement is informed by our professional and personal relationships with Indigenous people and organisations, which have endured for decades."

Mark Leibler AC, Senior Partner, Arnold Bloch Leibler
Read Mark's full message

History and commitment to Indigenous justice

Arnold Bloch Leibler’s standing as a leading Australian law firm has been built and nurtured over more than 60 years. Many of the values, characteristics and defining qualities from the early years continue to shape Arnold Bloch Leibler today.

A commitment to serving the community and causes that matter to our clients and to us has always been deeply ingrained in Arnold Bloch Leibler’s culture, as evidenced by our longstanding and well recognised public interest law pro-bono practice.

For nearly 30 years, we have worked with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, often pro-bono, ensuring that our dedication to Indigenous causes will always be a source of pride for our firm.  

From representing the Yorta Yorta peoples in their seminal native title claim through the 1990s to early 2000s, to securing the rightful return of the copyright in the lifetime works of iconic Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira to his family in 2017 and supporting communities in navigating the challenges of COVID-19, Arnold Bloch Leibler’s work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples spans the spectrum of legal, political, economic and cultural challenges.

We recognise that our deep and ongoing commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, communities, organisations, particularly in our pro-bono efforts, are a core part of the firm’s culture and identity.  

That said, while many of the firm’s partners and staff have experience working within Indigenous cultural environments, we recognise the limits of our knowledge and capability.

We acknowledge the complexity and challenges involved in negotiating a relationship of solidarity with Indigenous peoples and communities. We cannot and do not speak for Indigenous Australians but, rather, stand ‘shoulder to shoulder’ in support of their ongoing efforts for justice and self-determination.

We see this as a reciprocal relationship where, at the same time as continuing to offer our support and services, we have the privilege to learn from members of diverse and rich cultures, including the most ancient on the planet.

Priorities for 2021-2022

The main priorities for 2021-2022 are:

Statement of Commitment

To develop, publish, distribute and act on this new Statement of Commitment, which reaffirms Arnold Bloch Leibler’s commitment to supporting the aspirations of Indigenous Australians.

Constitutional recognition

To coordinate and support the firm’s advocacy for Constitutional Recognition in the form proposed in the Uluru Statement from the Heart and recommended in the final report of the Referendum Council, specifically a constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament.

Procurement

To create Indigenous procurement guidelines for the firm and, where possible, ensure that at least one new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander business is included in every procurement proposal or renewal. As part of this process, we commit to auditing our internal procurement procedures across the firm, to better understand any barriers that may exist with regards to Indigenous procurement and to work with colleagues to break these barriers down. We will also work to “matchmake” Indigenous businesses with clients and friends of the firm.

Public interest law

To help continue to strengthen Arnold Bloch Leibler’s public interest law client focused work for and on behalf of Indigenous peoples, communities and causes, through Arnold Bloch Leibler's public interest law practice.

Cultural awareness

To develop and implement a formal Indigenous cultural awareness training program for legal staff. This program will complement the longstanding firm strategy of Arnold Bloch Leibler lawyers developing essential cross-cultural skills through ‘on the job’ public interest law client work and relationship building.

Raising awareness of Indigenous issues

To continue to raise awareness within the firm about issues faced by Indigenous Australians and to facilitate staff participation in the AISN’s work.

Our initiatives

The AISN, as a representative cross section of the firm, will work to achieve our objectives by organising and driving initiatives, projects and events, including:

  • Embedding this Statement of Commitment as a ‘living document’, which the firm will reflect upon and refresh, as and when necessary.
  • Publishing, promoting and continually updating an online version of this Statement on Arnold Bloch Leibler’s website.
  • Continuing to hold external events (virtually, as necessary), inviting clients and friends of the firm, other members of the legal community, and members of other sectors, to increase awareness and understanding of the Uluru Statement from the Heart and its proposal for a Voice to Parliament, embedded in the Australian Constitution.
  • Continuing to hold internal events and programs to increase the engagement and knowledge of all staff, including:
    • the AISN book club
    • presentations by guest speakers, particularly Indigenous clients and friends of the firm, about aspects of Indigenous cultures and the movement for Indigenous empowerment and self-determination
    • presentations by Arnold Bloch Leibler staff on their role in matters involving Indigenous legal issues, and
    • publishing and circulating, internally and/or externally, materials identifying, explaining and reflecting on topical Indigenous legal issues.
  • Supporting and working together with Arnold Bloch Leibler's public interest law practice group, and the marketing and human resources teams, to reinforce the firm’s commitment to, and reputation for serving Indigenous clients.
  • Helping to build networks designed to enhance employment opportunities for Indigenous law students.

Example activities

The AISN coordinates events and activities that reflect and reinforce Arnold Bloch Leibler’s commitment to broaden and deepen community engagement with Indigenous issues, and the importance of celebrating Indigenous culture. These events and activities are aimed at raising awareness and understanding within the firm, but also externally. Some examples include:

Book club & screenings

The AISN hosts several book club events throughout the year that all Arnold Bloch Leibler staff members are invited to attend. The books selected are exclusively written by Indigenous authors and display an array of different Indigenous perspectives. Many deal with challenging topics, while also celebrating Indigenous culture through stories of connecting and caring for country. The AISN has also expanded the book club to feature accessible medium such as podcasts and films, with the most recent book club in September 2021 discussing the film My Name is Gulpilil.

The book club offers a “safe” and inviting environment for attendees to engage and discuss the themes of a book, or simply listen to other people’s perspectives. The AISN believe these events help to equip people with a level of understanding that allows them to explain and discuss current issues faced in this country with colleagues, family and friends.

The AISN has also hosted staff screenings of the following documentaries:

  • ‘After the Apology’ directed by Larissa Behrendt, which examined the rate of Indigenous child removal since Prime Minister Kevin Rudd delivered the national apology to the Stolen Generations in 2008.
  • ‘The Australian Dream’, a documentary about footballer Adam Goodes by Daniel Gordon and Stan Grant.

The firm also advised the organisers of the inaugural Birrarangga Film Festival, an Indigenous film festival that promotes and advances Indigenous films and filmmakers, while celebrating Global Indigenous Films that explore the curatorial themes of ‘Humanity through Family and Culture’.

Client events

NAIDOC Week 2019: Q&A with First Nations Foundation

In celebration of NAIDOC Week, Arnold Bloch Leiber hosted a thought-provoking Q&A with Ian Hamm and Amanda Young, the chair and CEO of long-standing client, First Nations Foundation (FNF). Ian and Amanda shared the ethos and strategy of FNF of assisting Indigenous people to participate equally in the economy. This leads to improved economic outcomes for Indigenous Australians, which in turn will bolster Indigenous health and education, and greater social and political inclusion. FNF also shared with staff the “national emergency” that sees one in two Indigenous Australians experience severe financial stress.

MPavilion 2019 event: Wantok Musik Foundation

The AISN hosted staff and guests at MPavilion in Melbourne, where they enjoyed performances by Frank Yamma (accompanied by Wantok Musik CEO, David Bridie and musician Phil Wales) and The Mystic Trio. The event was a celebration of the cultural diversity of our region.

Walking tours

The AISN has hosted a number of cultural walking tours for Arnold Bloch Leiber staff run by the Koorie Heritage Trust (in Melbourne) and the Barangaroo Reserve (in Sydney).

AISN Conversations

Since 2020, the AISN has been running a series of ‘In Conversation’ events for all staff virtually. Each event focuses on a different issue, discussing the way that the law can be used as a tool of empowerment for Indigenous peoples.
Special guests for the series have included:

  • Former Arnold Bloch Leiber lawyer Conor O’Bryan, speaking about life at the Anindilyakwa Land Council, the Groote Eylandt COVID-19 response and Self-Determination’, and
  • Barrister Tim Goodwin, speaking about the cases of Love v The Commonwealth and Thoms v The Commonwealth, the Australian Constitution, “aliens” power and Aboriginal Australians.

The intention of the ‘In Conversation’ series is to maintain and enhance staff engagement, both within the AISN and across the firm. This was a particularly important initiative during COVID-19 lockdowns, where physical interactions in the office were not possible.

AISN newsletter

In mid-2020, the AISN established an internal newsletter to convey network news across the firm and help colleagues to stay informed on current issues affecting Indigenous communities, including their response to COVID-19.

The newsletter summarises topical articles and issues, showcases Arnold Bloch Leibler's public interest law clients and initiatives, and provides recommended reading and viewing ideas (for children and adults).

Branding update: Indigenous place names

In October 2021, Arnold Bloch Leiber rolled out an update to our letterhead, email signatures and website to include the Indigenous place names of the firm's office locations. In Melbourne, the address now includes Wurundjeri Country, and in Sydney, Eora Country.

The movement to include traditional place names has recently gathered momentum and has been adopted by institutions such as Australia Post and the ABC. However, it remains largely unadopted in the legal industry. Centering traditional concepts of place reflects Arnold Bloch Leibler’s continuing commitment to championing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices and valuing Indigenous knowledge.

Cultural awareness training

An Indigenous cultural awareness training program was formally introduced as a compulsory component of Supervised Legal Training for all graduates in 2020.

Clients and causes

Click on the boxes below to find out more about the work undertaken by Arnold Bloch Leibler in solidarity with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients and colleagues – some of whom we have assisted for decades, and others with whom the relationship is relatively new.

"I am very proud of the fact this powerful Statement of Commitment reflects a whole of firm approach to Indigenous causes."

Henry Lanzer AM, Managing Partner
READ HENRY'S FULL MESSAGE

Tracking and reporting our progress

How will we meet our goals and targets?

To ensure we meet ongoing goals and targets, review them and keep them aligned with Arnold Bloch Leibler’s continuing commitment to Indigenous causes, the AISN will monitor and report as follows:

  • Utilising the impact model described below, the AISN will produce an annual progress report, which will take the form of an impact measurement report, adopting the ‘theory of change’ model.
  • The AISN will continue to make membership of the AISN available to all members of the firm.
  • The AISN will provide updates to the monthly partners’ meeting on the implementation of this Statement of Commitment.

What will guide our decision making and reporting?

In line with our new direction, the AISN has developed an impact model to guide decision making and reporting. The model is designed to assist the firm and AISN to:

  • Identify the rationale/objective of an activity so we can analyse the cause and effect relationship between activities and their longer-term impact.
  • Guide planning, design and execution of activities.
  • Identify where resources are best utilised.
  • Encourage staff members to appreciate AISN projects within the wider organisational context.

What is our desired impact?

The members of the AISN are passionate advocates for Indigenous empowerment and self-determination generally and for Constitutional Recognition specifically. We aim to assist partners and staff to build on their own passion for these and other related causes.

We aim to help in building and maintaining relationships and networks with Indigenous peoples, communities and causes, clients and friends of the firm. To achieve our aims and desired impacts, we will continue to:

  • Encourage, promote and celebrate the involvement of partners and staff in AISN activities, through continuing education and internal firm activities.
  • Ask for feedback from within and outside of the firm, to improve on our aims and maximise our impact for the benefit of Indigenous Australians.
  • Commit to supporting Indigenous businesses through increased procurement.
  • Pursue our role as advocates for positive and productive law reform.
  • Work towards improved accessibility to Arnold Bloch Leibler, and to the legal profession generally, for Indigenous Australians in their struggles for justice and in meeting their legal needs.

How will we endeavour to measure this impact?

The success of our actions in realising our aims and desired impacts will be considered through various forms of measurement, including the nature and extent of:

  • Feedback from and sentiments expressed by partners and staff through internal surveys relating to activities run by the AISN.
  • Feedback from and sentiments expressed by people outside of the firm relating to activities run by the AISN.
  • Partner and staff involvement in internal AISN and related activities.
  • Partner and staff involvement in external AISN and related activities.
  • Employment of Indigenous people in legal and non-legal positions within the firm.
  • Indigenous client work carried out as part of the firm’s public interest law contributions.
  • Feedback from and sentiments expressed by Indigenous clients and friends of the firm in relation to those contributions.
  • Partner and staff involvement in external panels associated with Indigenous justice, Constitutional Recognition and self-determination.
  • Indigenous law reform, particularly Constitutional reform, and Indigenous legal justice outcomes.

These considerations and forms of measurement will be developed by the AISN to ensure that the activities undertaken are aligned to our desired impact, and to ensure that the forms of measurement are effective.

Impact model

Using the model below, the AISN commits to producing an Annual Progress Report covering the main objectives and proposed actions contained in this Statement of Commitment, the outcomes achieved and what the AISN considers to be the overall impact of these actions.

 IMPACT MODeL

 

"Our new emphasis on the concept of Indigenous solidarity powerfully and accurately reflects what we have always sought, and will always seek, to achieve in our efforts."

Peter Seidel, Partner
view Peter's full message