THE VICTORIAN Law Foundation presented distinguished pro bono service awards to 11 recipients last week.
Presented by Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls, the awards mark both the 40th anniversary of the foundation and the 1967 constitutional referendum relating to Indigenous Australians. Recipients were honoured for their sustained contributions to indigenous rights.
One of those awarded, Mark Leibler of Arnold Bloch Leibler, is also co-chairman of Reconciliation Australia. He said he was honoured to be included among such prestigious company, the other recipients each having made substantial contributions to Indigenous affairs, such as the late Ron Castan, who was involved in the Mabo case.
Leibler and Peter Seidel were also recognised for their work on behalf of the Yorta Yorta community. Although the case was lost in the High Court, Leibler said they were able to negotiate a satisfactory land use management agreement with the Victorian Government, “which gives the Yorta Yorta most of what they were looking for in their native title”.
Dealing largely with government, though existing as an independent body, Reconciliation Australia has organised numerous events this year for the 40th anniversary of the referendum.
“Our principle objective is to set in train processes … which will help to remove the shocking difference in the life expectancy of an Aboriginal child and white child, which is 17 years at the moment,” he said. “And obviously that has implications in terms of health, education and so on and so forth.”
The awards were given to the following: Peter Seidel, Bryan Keon-Cohen QC, His Honour Judge Parsons, John Emerson AM, Mark Leibler AC, the Honourable Justice Geoffrey Eames; Inala Dodson for Professor Mick Dodson AM, Dr Alf Bamblett and Dr Kate Auty. Awards were also provided for late Ron Castan AM QC and Ron Merkel QC.