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First students graduate from Aboriginal Legal Career Pathways program

A number of incoming First Nations lawyers have graduated from a new program from Legal Aid NSW, TAFE NSW, and Macquarie University, which will work towards increasing diversity in the profession and creating pathways for future lawyers.

user iconLauren Croft 30 October 2023 Big Law
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The Aboriginal Legal Career Pathways Program is aimed at battling Aboriginal underrepresentation in law, after the sixth National Profile of Solicitors report revealed that indigenous solicitors only make up 0.8 per cent of the profession.

The first students recently graduated from the program, which enables future First Nations lawyers to take a path from TAFE study to a law degree while working in a support role at Legal Aid NSW.

Eighteen students recently graduated after completing both a legal services qualification and work experience at Legal Aid NSW.


Legal Aid NSW chief executive Monique Hitter said the program would help improve the legal sector for First Nations people, including the 23 per cent of Legal Aid clients who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

“I cannot overstate the importance of this program and the potential that it has for us to better serve our Aboriginal clients and to elevate Aboriginal voices in the justice system,” she said.

After graduating, participants can then continue on to a graduate certificate of law at Macquarie University, followed by a juris doctor degree if they choose, supported by a full scholarship from the Macquarie University Law School.

Program graduate and Gadigal woman Simone Roberts, 41, is planning to continue through the program pathway to become a solicitor.

“Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been in trouble with the law, and if I can prevent that and help by defending them and helping them know their rights, then that’s really great,” she said.

The program, recently named a finalist in the Premier’s Awards, is aimed at addressing Aboriginal underrepresentation in the sector, with research suggesting only 0.8 per cent of solicitors in Australia identified as First Nations.

Yuin and Bidjigal woman Kimberley Wilson, director of Aboriginal services at Legal Aid NSW, said the program is about supporting Aboriginal career opportunities.

“The program empowers Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to access employment pathways, including education and training, that aligns with their aspirations, which is a key priority as part of Closing the Gap,” she said.

Macquarie University Honorary Associate Professor Uncle Boe Rambaldini emphasised the importance of education for Aboriginal people.

“When our people complete education, it not only opens up opportunities for them [but] also shows others what’s possible,” he said.

“Education enables our people to lead our services. And this is how we close the gap. I am so proud of these students for completing their studies and look forward to seeing what they do next.”

Further, TAFE NSW chief delivery officer Janet Schorer congratulated the graduates for their efforts over the course of the program.

“Working with Legal Aid and Macquarie University, TAFE NSW customised the program so it was accessible and relevant to learners. It’s inspiring to see this cohort are now one step closer to reaching their goals and making a difference in the legal sector and the community,” she said.

“Initiatives like the Aboriginal Legal Career Pathways program are a great way to transition from education and training into employment, and tailor graduate’s skills and experience to meet employer’s needs.”