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Aboriginal lawyers making their mark in Victoria

Capital Markets, Corporate and M&A, Native Title & Public Interest Law
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In the April edition of the Law Institute Journal partner Peter Seidel and lawyer Karri Walker give their insights into what commercial law firms can do to attract increasing numbers of Aboriginal lawyers.

The article reports that while Aboriginal lawyers still only make up less than 1 percent of the profession in Victoria, there has been significant growth over the past 15 years, with Aboriginal lawyers working in firms, in government, as barristers and magistrates, and in community legal services. Important role models identified by journalist Karin Derkley include magistrates Abigail Burchill and Rose Falla, Victorian Aboriginal Legal Services CEO Nerita Waight, Djirra CEO Antoinette Braybrook, and barrister Tim Goodwin. 

Karin writes that top tier commercial law firms are one area where Aboriginal lawyers are still relatively few and quotes Karri explaining that, in part, this is because of an expectation that Indigenous lawyers will work for community in Indigenous-facing roles. She also says that commercial law is seen as unattainable by many Aboriginal students because of the lack of diversity in firms.

“When you walk into some of these environments you are very aware you’re the only person of colour,” Karri said. “And a lot of non-Indigenous people don’t understand how this creates an unnerving feeling.”

The article quotes public interest partner Peter Seidel explaining that while ABL does not have a formal Indigenous internship or clerkship program, the firm has attracted Aboriginal lawyers like Karri because of an awareness of and respect for our enduring partnerships with Aboriginal clients and unflinching support of causes that are important to Indigenous Australians more broadly. “It’s understood by Aboriginal law students and prospective lawyers that ABL is a safe place where people are respected and are given opportunities to thrive and progress in the firm,” he said.

To read the full article, click here.

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