Peter Seidel is the partner responsible for coordinating Arnold Bloch Leibler’s public interest law contributions and is head of the firm’s native title and Indigenous rights practice. His position emphasises the notion of giving back to the community and acknowledges a strong commitment the partners have to improving civil society through public interest law contributions. Notably, Peter represented the Yorta Yorta Aboriginal peoples in their landmark native title claim, High Court appeal and associated legal transactions.
Peter joined Arnold Bloch Leibler as a lawyer in 1993 and became a partner in 2002. Prior to joining the firm, Peter completed a three-year position at the Federal Court of Australia as the Associate to the then Acting Chief Justice of the Federal Court, Justice Charles Sweeney. Peter is entered on the High Court Register of Practitioners and is entitled to practice as a barrister and solicitor of both the Federal Court and Supreme Court of Victoria.
In Peter’s public interest law coordinating role at Arnold Bloch Leibler he receives and acts on requests for pro-bono legal assistance through Justice Connect, having previously served on the board of the Public Interest Law Clearing House.
For many years now Peter has been highlighted as one of Australia’s leading lawyers by prominent international legal guides Chambers Asia Pacific, The Legal 500 Asia Pacific and Best Lawyers International in the area of native title and traditional owner rights, for his deep commitment to empowering traditional owners. Complementing this, Peter has been similarly recognised by Chambers Asia Pacific in the area of charities for his wealth of experience working for the not-for-profit sector on a range of matters including constitutional, governance and contractual issues.
In 2020, Peter was awarded Lawyers Weekly ‘Pro Bono Partner of the Year’. Peter is also a previous recipient of the prestigious Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s Human Rights Award in the Law Category, in recognition of his significant contribution to the promotion and advancement of human rights in Australia.
Amongst other important Indigenous bodies Peter represents, he acts as a trusted adviser to Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation, Anindilyakwa Land Council, Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation, First Australians Capital, Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation, Lowitja Institute, Ramahyuck District Aboriginal Corporation and Wantok Musik Foundation.
"He has a particular skill for dealing with delicate, sensitive legal issues; he’s taken a huge weight off my shoulders over the years."
Peter’s practice focuses on the following areas:
- public interest law, advising peak, charitable and not-for-profit Indigenous and non-Indigenous organisations on governance and constitutional related issues, promoting cultural, social justice and environmental outcomes that empower clients
- native title and land rights and associated tax, governance, structuring and general commercial advice, concentrating on achieving effective, practical and sustainable outcomes, respecting at all times his clients’ goals, and the importance of obtaining their free, prior and informed consent, and
- commercial law and related negotiations, including contractual advice, alternative dispute resolution, consultancy and service agreements.
Peter has acted and currently acts on a range of public interest matters, including:
Native title and Indigenous rights
- various Land Councils and Native Title Representative Bodies, including Yamatji Malpa Aborignal Corporation and Anindilyakwa Land Council: in relation to their statutory functions under the Native Title Act and Aboriginal Land Rights Act respectively
- Yorta Yorta Aboriginal peoples: in relation to their 1994 Federal Court application, 1999 Full Court of the Federal Court appeal, 2002 High Court Appeal, co-and joint management agreements with the State of Victoria, its application to be formally recognised as the traditional owners of the mid Murray region of Northern Victoria under the Traditional Owners’ Settlement Act and other ongoing issues of relevance to their traditional owner rights
- Namatjira Legacy Trust: in the successful resolution of Australia’s longest-running intellectual property dispute concerning the ownership of the copyright in the lifetime works of Australia’s most iconic Indigenous artist, Albert Namatjira. In 1983, the Namatjira copyright was sold by the Northern Territory Government to Legend Press for $8,500, without properly consulting with the Namatjira family. The outcome involved successfully negotiating the transfer of the copyright back to the Namatjira Legacy Trust, which represents the Namatjira family, as well as obtaining a historic compensation package from the Northern Territory Government for the benefit of the Western Aranda Indigenous community, and
- various prescribed body corporates and ATSI Corporations, including First Australians Capital, First Nations Foundation, Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation, Lowitja Institute, Australian Indigenous Governance Institute, Dungala Kaiela Foundation, Saltwater Country, Black Ducks Foods, Ramahyuck District Aboriginal Corporation and the Munarra Centre for Regional Excellence: in relation to ongoing corporate governance requirements, agreements, memoranda of understanding and miscellaneous traditional owner rights and cultural heritage related legal issues.
Public interest law
- various not-for-profit environmental, cultural and community based organisations, including Greenpeace Australia Pacific, Australian Conservation Foundation, The Sunrise Project, Australian Youth Climate Coalition, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Footscray Community Arts, National Association of Visual Arts, PBS FM, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Australian Communities Foundation, Birrarangga Film Festival, Athletes for Hope and Reichstein Foundation: in relation to ongoing corporate governance requirements, agreements, memoranda of understanding and miscellaneous charity law related issues, and
- engaging in anti-discrimination test case litigation and related conciliation and advocacy processes, representing victims of racial, disability and sex discrimination, including on behalf of members the African Australian community of Flemington and Kensington in relation to their seminal Australian Human Rights Commission complaint and subsequent Federal Court racial discrimination action against the Victoria Police Chief Commissioner and the State of Victoria.
Peter serves on the board of Wantok Musik Foundation.
Awards & recognition
Peter is recognised as a leading lawyer by various international guides to lawyers and law firms, and has received various industry-based awards, including:
- Lawyers Weekly: Winner 2020 - Pro bono ‘Partner of the Year'
- Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission ‘Human Rights Award – Law’
- Best Lawyers® International: Native title law
- Chambers Asia Pacific: Charities and Native title: Traditional owners
- Doyle’s Guide: Native title, and
- Legal 500 Asia Pacific: Native title
"His advice is always practical, and he is excellent at zeroing in on the key issues that will make a difference on the ground and addressing them in a clear and concise manner."