Bridgid Cowling is a special counsel in the firm’s public interest law and native title groups. She advises a broad range of clients with a focus on charities and not-for-profit organisations, Aboriginal Land Councils and Native Title Representative Bodies. Bridgid has many years of experience working with remote and urban Indigenous communities.
Bridgid joined the firm in February 2015 from Cape York Land Council, where she was a Senior Lawyer responsible for providing legal and policy advice in native title and land rights law and administrative law. She was appointed as a special counsel in July 2021.
Prior to working at Cape York Land Council, Bridgid performed a similar role at Northern Land Council. She also volunteered as a Civil Lawyer at the Cairns Community Legal Centre.
Throughout her career, Bridgid has contributed to numerous law reform submissions in relation to charities, mining, native title and land rights law.
Bridgid is recognised by Chambers Asia Pacific in the area of ‘charities’ for her wealth of experience acting for the not-for-profit sector on range of matters including the establishment of new charities and governance issues. She is also recognised as a “next generation partner” by Legal 500 Asia Pacific for native title.
"Her knowledge of Australian charity law is outstanding and she is emerging as a leading voice on best practice in the jurisdiction."
Bridgid has a diverse practice in native title, charities and public interest law which includes advisory and transactional work. Bridgid’s areas of expertise include:
- the commercial and taxation aspects of native title and land rights agreements and their associated structures
- corporate governance, structuring and taxation advice for charities and not-for-profits including those focusing on environmental justice, Indigenous rights, health and human rights
- general commercial and contract advice including risk management, and
- litigation in the public interest.
Bridgid has acted and currently acts on a range of public interest law and native title matters, including:
- providing specialised income tax and GST advice for native title representative bodies and prescribed bodies corporate
- negotiating and drafting exploration and mining, property, solar farm, and other commercial agreements for native title representative bodies, land councils and Aboriginal corporations including Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation, Goldfields Land and Sea Council, Anindilyakwa Land Council, Central Land Council and Ramahyuck District Aboriginal Corporation, and
- advising native title representative bodies and land councils in relation to statutory functions under the Native Title Act 1993 and the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976.
Public interest law
- providing corporate structuring and strategic advice regarding incorporation, charity registration and tax concessions for charitable clients
- advising charitable clients in relation to a range of legal issues including ongoing corporate governance requirements, compliance, and taxation issues, including Greenpeace Australia Pacific, Australian Conservation Foundation, First Nations Foundation, Global Citizen, Lowitja Institute, , Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation, Australians Investing in Women and Oxfam
- assisting charitable clients to pursue innovative commercial opportunities for furthering their charitable purpose, and
- pursuing litigation in the public interest in relation to human rights and social just issues including test case litigation.
Directorships & memberships
Bridgid is a Director of:
- environmental charity Country Needs People Ltd
- arts and cultural organisation Abbottsford Convent Foundation.
Bridgid is also the Chair of the Law Council of Australia Charities & Not for Profits Committee and a member of the:
- Tax Institute’s Not-for-profit Technical Committee; and
- Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Advisers Forum.
Awards & recognition
Bridgid is recognised as a leading lawyer by various international guides to lawyers and law firms, including:
- Chambers Asia Pacific: charities, and
- Legal 500 Asia Pacific: native title.