ARNOLD BLOCH LEIBLER (ABL) partner, Peter Seidel has won the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s 2006 Human Rights Award in the Law category.
Seidel heads ABL’s public interest law practice, co-ordinating the firm’s pro bono efforts. I really feel privileged to have won this on behalf of the clients I represent and on behalf of Arnold Bloch Leibler. It honours the importance of my clients’ causes and it honours the work of the firm, which the firm has entrusted me to coordinate,” Seidel said.
Over the past financial year, the firm worked on nearly 100 public interest matters of varying sizes and assisted numerous clients including the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Voiceless, the Fund for Animals and the Australian Conservation Foundation.
In presenting the award, judges made mention of Seidel’s work for the Yorta Yorta native title claimants of northern Victoria and southern NSW. The High Court upheld a Federal Court decision dismissing the Yorta Yorta people’s native title claim in 2003, marking the end of the longest-running native title case in Australia’s history.
Seidel worked on the case which spanned over a decade and said it exemplifies why public interest law is so important.
“Their struggle for justice continues despite losing in the High Court. They didn’t fail the system — the system failed them. It’s because of inequalities and injustices that public interest law is vital — to ensure the gap between justice and the truth is narrowed,” he said.
Seidel also paid tribute to ABL’s policy on public interest law, which he said meant it was inextricably linked to the firm’s identity. There is no distinction between public interest law and commercial work. We have no budget because we don’t have one with commercial clients. We go where the relationship drives us,” he said.