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Equal briefs redress in Indigenous policy

Equal briefs redress in Indigenous policy

The Victorian legal profession is the first state to have a policy on equitable briefing for Indigenous Australian lawyers.

UNDER representation of Indigenous Australians in the legal profession will be targeted under a new policy agreed between the Law Institute of Victoria and the Victorian Bar.

The Indigenous Equal Opportunity Briefing Policy aims to promote equal opportunity for indigenous barristers and encourage the profession to address Indigenous underrepresentation.

Victorian Bar chairman, John Digby QC, said the legal profession should reflect the diversity of the Australian population.

“We currently have three Indigenous barristers on the Bar Roll which is no-where near enough,” he said. ‘But we must ensure they have as much chance as any barrister to maintain practice – and that means getting briefs.’

Mr Digby said the Victorian Bar recognises the challenges faced by Indigenous people, including access to education, law schools, and role models from the profession. He said establishing practice as a barrister was difficult with about one in two dropping out within the first few years.

LIV president Danny Barlow said the goal was to increase the participation rate of Indigenous Australians in the law.

“This sends a signal that we are serious about wanting to encourage Indigenous participation at all levels of the law,” he said.

Both the Victorian Bar and the LIV have programs to support Indigenous legal practitioners, including mentoring, rent subsidies for Indigenous barristers, paid summer clerkships, a sponsored place at College of Law and support for Tarwirri, the Indigenous Law Students and Lawyers Association of Victoria.

“There is much more work to be done, but we want to make the law an attractive career option for all Australians,” Mr Barlow said.

Victoria is the first State to introduce an Indigenous Briefing Policy. 

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