The Victorian Bar Association has launched the Indigenous Barristers Fund to support indigenous lawyers in commencing their careers at the Bar.
Timothy Tobin SC, who is on the Fund’s Committee, said he was only aware of two indigenous lawyers who had been members of the Victorian Bar — Mick Dodson and Linda Lovett.
“Our aim is to provide support for people of an indigenous background to get into the Bar and that’s to provide particular support by mentoring and contact in the university years. I think we recognise that a lot of indigenous people have little network support in the sense of getting access to the Bar and they see it as an area that’s not potentially open for them. This aims to give them mentoring and financial support to increase their access to the Bar,” he said.
There are currently 25 indigenous law students studying at Victorian universities. The committee intends to seek advice on how monies raised by the fund should be used.
“What we — sitting in an office in William Street — may think is the best way of helping, may not be. So in part it’s going to be important we hear from the people who need the help and from the other people that help them to provide practical support.
“We will be consulting with people who have a greater awareness [of the issues facing indigenous students], including universities, the community and people who have been through the pathway,” Tobin said.
Donations to the Fund are now being sought. The Victorian Law Foundation has already donated $25,000.
“We see it as an absolutely consistent with the Victorian Bar’s role in the past of giving support to groups who have poor access to get legal training,” Tobin said.