Indigenous Australians, their cultures and experiences, have an important part to play in the legal profession.
The first Indigenous barrister at the Victorian Bar was Professor Mick Dodson AM, 2009 Australian of the Year, who signed the Bar Roll in 1981 and has spent his career campaigning to improve the lives of Indigenous people.
For a list of Indigenous barristers currently practising at the Bar, see the end of this page.
In October 2012 the Victorian Bar Council became the first Bar in Australia to adopt a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) for the years 2012-2016.
The Bar has been actively monitoring its activities against the criteria outlined within that RAP. Within that time, the Bar was pleased to meet its targets in respect of the RAP, and build on the programs and projects supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander justice.
In March 2017, the Bar has reaffirmed its commitment to reconciliation with the launch of the Bar's second RAP, for the years 2017-2020. The new RAP embraces the existing initiatives and activities under the first RAP, and provides a framework to improve and expand upon them.
For more information about our commitment and contribution towards reconciliation, read our Reconciliation Action Plan 2017-2020.
The RAP is supported by the Indigenous Justice Committee (IJC). The IJC aims to attract, retain and ensure equality of opportunity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians as barristers at the Victorian Bar.
Indigenous Justice Committee members are listed here.
The LIV and the Victorian Bar have a joint policy to promote genuine consideration to briefing of Indigenous barristers.
The Indigenous Equal Opportunity Briefing Policy has been developed in cooperation with Indigenous members of the Victorian Bar. The briefing of Indigenous barristers will assist present and future Indigenous Australians to participate in the legal profession.
The Victorian Bar seeks to assist Indigenous lawyers who wish to come to the Bar by waiving the Bar Readers’ Course fee for Indigenous Readers.
General information about becoming a barrister and the Bar Readers’ Course is available here. To enquire about coming to the Bar, contact Nina Massara, Co-ordinator, Bar Readers' Course or Tom Keely SC, Chair of the IJC.
The Victorian Bar conducts a clerkship program for Indigenous law students on an annual basis each February/March (depending on student availability). The three students selected for this program obtain a total of three weeks’ paid work experience at the Bar, the Supreme Court of Victoria and the Federal Court of Australia.
To apply, complete the Indigenous Law Students’ Clerkship Application Form.
The Victorian Bar organises a legal mentoring program that is open to Indigenous law students or graduates. Each participant is linked up with a barrister and a Judge (Supreme Court, Federal Court or County Court) to facilitate long term career assistance.
To join this program, complete the Mentoring Program Expression of Interest Form.
A five day work experience program is available for Indigenous secondary school students through the Victorian Bar. The program is open to any Indigenous secondary school student in Year 9 onwards who is considering a career in the Law.
Participating students will be introduced to a barrister working in the student's area of interest. Before the program commences, the barrister will liaise with the teacher responsible for work experience at the school to ensure that the week’s activities can be planned to suit both the school’s requirements and the student's areas of interest.
To apply, complete the Indigenous Secondary School Students Work Experience Program Application Form.
The Victorian Bar Council has adopted a policy intended to assist Indigenous barristers financially in the setting up phase of their professional careers. Bar Council will underwrite a proportion of the chambers rental incurred by Indigenous barristers for a 12 month period during their early years at the Bar.
For more information, consult the Subsidised Chambers Policy.
The Victorian Bar Council established the Indigenous Barristers' Fund as a major initiative of, and an expression of its commitment to, assist Indigenous barristers in needy financial circumstances remain in legal practice at the Bar. The purpose of the trust under which the Fund is established is ‘the relief of Indigenous persons where necessitous circumstances constitute an obstacle to them being able to practise at the Victorian Bar’.
The Fund has been in operation since 2007. Ongoing support for the Fund is sought from barristers and other members of the legal profession, as well as from foundations and corporations, in order to meet the demands on the Fund as the number of Indigenous barristers in Victoria continues to grow. Please note that donations to the Fund are tax deductible.
Further information on the Fund is available in the Indigenous Barristers’ Fund Brochure and Donation Form.
In 2012, the Indigenous Justice Committee (formerly the Indigenous Lawyers’ Committee) received a grant from the Victorian Bar Foundation of $10,000pa for three years for the Indigenous Barristers' Development Fund. The Development Fund aims to provide funds to Indigenous barristers to engage in professional development activities to enhance their networks and skills in order to progress their careers as barristers at the Victorian Bar.
To apply, complete the Indigenous Barristers’ Development Fund Application Form.
In 2017, one of the Bar’s Indigenous barristers has appeared as junior counsel in a criminal law appeal to the High Court (The Queen v Afford  HCA 19) and another is appearing as junior counsel assisting Margaret White AO and Mick Gooda, the Royal Commissioners inquiring into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory.
The 10th anniversary of the Indigenous Clerkship Program and the launch of the Bar’s RAP 2017-2020 were celebrated at a well-attended function on 31 March 2017 in the foyer of Owen Dixon Chambers West. The keynote speaker at the function was Victoria’s only Aboriginal judicial officer, her Honour Magistrate Rose Falla.
In accordance with commitments made in the Bar’s RAPs, the IJC ensures that at least one seminar on legal issues relating to Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islander people or working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is presented each year. The most recent of these seminars are listed below and are available to members in the CPD catalogue: