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Pro Bono star tackles Indigenous unemployment

Pro Bono star tackles Indigenous unemployment

The human side of pro bono work can sometimes become obscured among all the lofty corporate mission statements and tallies of billable hours donated. However, after meeting Anna Rakoczy, it is…

The human side of pro bono work can sometimes become obscured among all the lofty corporate mission statements and tallies of billable hours donated. However, after meeting Anna Rakoczy, it is clear that people, not prospectuses, are the core of pro bono at Clayton Utz. Laura MacIntyre reports.

Anna Rakoczy is a senior lawyer in the Clayton Utz Perth Litigation and Dispute Resolution team, and is the Perth co-ordinator of the Clayton Utz Community Connect committee.

Anna's personal contribution to pro bono was recently recognised by the Law Council of Australia, who named her Young Lawyer of the Year 2008 for "Continuous and Outstanding Contribution by an Individual to the Profession and the Community".

Most recently, Anna has been involved in drafting The Australian Employment Covenant (AEC) - an ambitious initiative led by the Australian Children's Trust (ACT), the Commonwealth Government and industry partners, to break the cycles of welfare dependency and poverty in Indigenous Australia.

Anna's involvement in the project came about while she was assisting another charity, True Blue Dreaming, with a grant application to Children's Trust. A mention of the Covenant sparked her interest, and the more she found out about it, the more inspired she became.

"This was in the first few weeks of the formation of the Australian Employment Covenant, so I Googled it to find out what it was. As I read about it, I felt like this was what I had dreamed could one day happen, and this was an organisation with really good structure and people behind it."

Anna contacted the ACT again to offer her legal skills to AEC drafters, eager to help with anything from contract drafting to proof reading. In response, the AEC asked her to handle the drafting of the Covenant itself.

The project was approved as a pro bono matter by Clayton Utz, and Anna subsequently drafted all the covenants, deeds and undertakings which were eventually signed by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd at the launch at Kirribilli House in October 2008.

The response to the AEC from both employers and the Indigenous community has been overwhelmingly positive, but there is still work to be done to reach the target of creating 200,000 jobs. Anna is providing ongoing legal advice as the Federal Government negotiates contracts with individual employers and drafts amendments to the Covenant.

"On the day of the launch, which was literally about two weeks after it began, they already had 5000 jobs committed and I know they already have many more since then," Anna says, "The hard part will be implementation, really, and making it work."

The project is just one of several that Anna and the Community Connect Committee are involved in at any one time. When articled clerks join the firm, they can nominate to join the Community Connect Committee, and about two people join each year. Anna is actively involved in mentoring young lawyers who want to get involved in pro bono. So, how does she find enough hours in the day?

"I really do make an effort to help with mentoring of junior lawyers, because it honestly took me about three years to develop systems which reduced my time wastage," Anna says.

"It's an ongoing challenge and I guess I've become very efficient at doing things. I basically narrowed down the things that I really value in life, and that's what I spend my time on. There's certainly not much free time ... but my belief is that if you spend your time doing things which you are passionate about, which includes my job as a commercial litigator, then you are going to be a happy person, even if you are a busy person."

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