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‘Be fierce, be bold, be daring,’ NT A-G tells legal profession

The Attorney-General of the Northern Territory talks about what motivates his work and advises the legal profession how to “be the change they want to see”.

user iconJess Feyder 29 March 2023 Big Law
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Recently on The Lawyers Weekly Show, Attorney-General of the Northern Territory, the Honourable Chanston Paech discussed what drives him in his work and gave advice to those in the legal profession. 

In his early life, Mr Paech was involved in many community-controlled Aboriginal organisations and grew up exposed to what his family referred to as “black politics”, which meant helping to shape the future of First Nations people.  

Having grown up in Central Australia, with family across the region in remote communities, Mr Paech saw firsthand the level of injustice happening to his own relatives and heard stories of them being incarcerated for minor matters and working through a discriminatory system of law.  

 
 

“That was what ignited my sense to want to be involved at a political level,” Mr Paech said, “to try and drive progressive change and to look at how we can pivot the legal system away from being a very draconian, punitive system, to being one that lifts people out of issues brought about by poverty and intergenerational trauma”.

“That’s where my kind of underlying passion and interest came into play,” he added.  

Mr Paech discussed the strategy of driving change from the inside. 

“You’ve got to be in the system to start to decolonise those systems to drive the change that we need to see,” he explained.  

“When we talk about what decolonisation of a political system, of justice, or of law, it simply means taking the opportunities to look at the structural reform that is needed and to drive that.

“It’s about incorporating many of the practices that we’ve had as First Nations people and incorporating that into the systems that we have; rather than being constantly pushed into a system, we have to tell the system that it has to work with us.”

Mr Paech gave advice for those in the legal profession: “I’d like to give a shout-out to basically everyone in the legal profession, particularly young people, and just say: be fierce, be bold, and be daring.

“You’re at a great time in your career, and the opportunities before you are absolutely endless.

“I always say the worst thing that someone can ever say to you is no, and if you already know that that could be an option walking into the room and you’re prepared for it, then just give it a go.

“Once, when I was trying to deliver the law reform in the territory and the landscape was very challenging, I said to a good friend of mine, ‘I’m trying to push this through’, and my friend said to me, ‘Well, it’s game on. Go hard or go home.’ That’s a message that I try to communicate a lot to all of my people.

“You have to stand for something, and I would rather be kicked out of office in two years’ time, having stood for something, than just be there to keep ticking over with the status quo,” he stated. “Status quo hasn’t worked, and we are in these jobs for a limited time — be the change that you want to see.

“If we want to have justice served and if we want to see the injustices dealt with, then we have to push, and we have to be that change.”

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