Bridging the distance one step at a time
17 March 2019
Today (17 MAR) is National Close the Gap Day, a day when the focus is placed on shortening the gap in health and life expectancy between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians.
This year’s theme is “Our health, our voice, our choice,” which should cause all Australians to pause and consider exactly what that means.
From a more local perspective, one of the key focuses for Queensland’s legal profession is Indigenous engagement in the legal profession and reducing Indigenous incarceration.
Queensland Law Society has a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) which is now in its second year since the 2017 launch as the first RAP for Queensland solicitors.
Queensland Law Society President Bill Potts said that the RAP focused on the profession, student and community – three areas that the legal profession can tangibly address.
“Our work includes advocacy on policies that affect First Nations Peoples, but also giving them a voice on legislation before the Parliament,” he said.
“We also support and provide opportunities for education and awareness in our community or First Nations legal issues, and we aim to address the overrepresentation of First Nations Peoples in the justice system and their underrepresentation in the profession.”
Some of the ways that QLS has started the process is through the introduction of two awards each year – Queensland First Nations Lawyer of the Year and Queensland First Nations Legal Student of the Year.
“On Friday night we were pleased to award Bill Munroe with the Queensland First Nations Lawyer of the Year award and Giselle Kilner-Parmenter with the Queensland First Nations Legal Student of the Year award.
“Both were very worthy recipients whose time is spent raising cultural awareness for Indigenous people and advocating on their behalf.”
QLS also holds regular ‘LawLink” events in which Indigenous students are invited to visit local law firms to hear from staff about day-to-day practice and see how a law firm operates in person.
The next event is held in conjunction with the annual QLS Legal Careers Expo – an event that sees hundreds of Queensland law students flock to the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre to learn about career opportunities in the profession.
“We look forward to holding our LawLink events as engaging with our Indigenous law students is key to growing a truly inclusive and diverse profession.
“Even such seemingly small steps will lead to a better future for all of us.”