Reconciliation – Victorian legal profession shows the way

 In News

A forum in Melbourne tomorrow will hear that the growing relationships between Aboriginal communities and key Victorian law firms and organisations are resulting in improved access to legal advice for the Aboriginal community and outcomes for Indigenous law students, and lawyers.

Hosted by the Tarwirri–Indigenous Law Students and Lawyers Association of Victoria, Reconciliation Australia and Reconciliation Victoria, Indigenous Reconciliation Initiatives within the Victorian Legal Profession: Who, what, how is part of the Victoria Law Foundation’s official Law Week program for 2013.

According to Tarwirri President, Karly Warner, the Victorian legal profession is leading the way in demonstrating how meaningful and practical reconciliation can be enhanced through legal initiatives, which include some nationally significant pro bono cases undertaken by Melbourne law firms and the development of employment and professional development opportunities for Indigenous law students and lawyers.

“Tarwirri has seen a range of Government and private sector organisations increase their acknowledgment of individual and cultural identity. The development of real and rewarding opportunities aids the Indigenous community to prove their contribution to organizations is invaluable. The ongoing effectiveness and strength of these initiatives depends on the value we place on cultural and individual difference in the legal profession and in the community at large.””

Reconciliation Australia CEO, Leah Armstrong, said her organisation is proud that a key initiative, the Reconciliation Action Plan program, has been able to assist in the burgeoning partnerships between Victorian law firms and Aboriginal communities across Australia.

“There is a huge body of historical evidence about the lack of justice received by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Australian legal system so the work of reconciliation and relationship building in the legal profession is especially critical,” said Ms Armstrong.

“Our program has assisted some of Victoria’s biggest law firms and law associations including Arnold Bloch Leibler, Allens and the Victorian Bar to develop RAPs and provide critical pro bono services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and in some cases improved employment opportunities for young Koori graduates.”

According to David Pleydell, co-chair of Arnold Bloch Leibler’s Reconciliation Action Plan working group, the RAP programme has added a broader structure to complement the longstanding relationships with and commitment to Indigenous communities that the firm has been honoured to develop over the past two decades.

Reconciliation Victoria’s Erin McKinnon said the impacts of reconciliation in action in Victoria’s legal community could be seen in the success of the Victorian Aboriginal Justice Agreement and Koori Courts in improving justice outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. “These initiatives show the powerful potential of meaningful partnerships with Aboriginal people. Similarly a number of law firms in Victoria have demonstrated a commitment to working with and learning from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” said Erin McKinnon. “It is encouraging to see the growing number of firms recognising the valuable contribution that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ including legal professionals make to their organisations and to the wider community”.

Guest speakers at tomorrow’s forum include representatives from Reconciliation Victoria, Judicial Officers Aboriginal Cultural Awareness Committee, Tarwirri, Victorian Bar, Law Institute Victoria, Legal Profession Reconciliation Network and a number of top-tier law firms.

Event details are as follows:

Date: Friday 17 May, 2013
Time: 12:30pm – 2:00pm
Venue: Lander & Rogers Lawyers – Level 12, 600 Bourke Street, Melbourne

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