Lawyers have teamed up with a national arts body to assist Aboriginal artists in the drafting of wills.
Since 2004, the Arts Law Centre of Australia has run the "Artists in the Black" program, which is a legal service for Indigenous artists, communities and arts organisations. Recently, a key component of this program has been the provision of legal services to remote Indigenous communities in order for local people to draft wills.
"We are dealing with artists in remote and regional areas," said Delwyn Everard, the senior solicitor with the Arts Law Centre. "English might not be their first language and they don't have access to the internet, so it is no good sitting in our ivory tower in Sydney. We need to go out there."
Over the past couple of years, Everard has organised a number of visits to remote Aboriginal communities with advice on matters pertaining to wills and estates becoming an increasingly important part of such tours. She said this issue came up in tandem with the struggle of Indigenous artists to secure royalties for their original works.
"Very few Indigenous people have wills," she said. "Lots of Indigenous families that live in remote communities don't have birth certificates. They have a clear understanding of their families, but don't have those records. Even though wills and estates isn't something we would normally be doing, that is how we got into this."
From 11 to 18 September, Everard will visit Alice Springs and the remote community of Kintore, 530 kilometres west of Alice Springs. She will be accompanied by Gadens senior associate Jodie Wauchope, an Aboriginal information officer from the Arts Law Centre and a lawyer from the Copyright Agency Limited.
Gadens pro bono coordinator Bran Black said his firm's interest in the arts and existing links with the Arts Law Centre was the catalyst for it to participate in the program. The firm has committed itself to provide lawyers for an additional two trips as part of the program, with lawyers at Gadens invited to apply for each separate tour. An internal selection committee including Black and the firm's Sydney CEO, Ian Dardis, then chooses a candidate to go on the trip.
"Jodie was chosen because she has extensive experience in remote Indigenous communities," said Black. Earlier this year, senior partner Campbell Hudson visited Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory. Black said this was to ascertain how the firm could make a more practical contribution with its pro bono work in Indigenous communities, and the participation of Wauchope and the firm in trips with the Arts Law Centre is a key part of that initiative.
After the trip to the Northern Territory next month, the Arts Law Centre plans to visit remote communities in the Kimberley region in Western Australia in November.
Everard said lawyers from Minter Ellison and DLA Phillips Fox (now DLA Piper) have previously assisted on similar trips.