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.
In March 2017, the Bar reaffirmed its commitment to Reconciliation with the launch of the Bar's second RAP for 2017-2020.
The Bar has been actively monitoring its activities against the criteria outlined within its RAP. Within that time, the Bar was pleased to meet its targets in respect of the RAP, and to have built on the programs and projects supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander justice.
The Bar’s current RAP for 2021-2023 was endorsed and officially accredited by Reconciliation Australia in March 2022. The RAP embraces the existing initiatives and activities under the earlier RAPs, and provides a framework to improve and expand upon them.
For more information about our commitment and contribution towards Reconciliation, read our RAP 2021-2023.
The RAP is supported by the Indigenous Justice Committee (IJC). The IJC aims to achieve 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 Victorian Bar’s Indigenous Justice Committee recommends Members of Counsel undertake cultural awareness training to enhance their understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, practices and history. Good cultural awareness enhances legal practice, client communication and knowledge of the history and customs of Indigenous people.
The Indigenous Justice Committee is aware of multiple external cultural awareness training courses that barristers can undertake, catering to all levels. The courses vary in length and cost.
In 2022, a legal profession-specific consultation on access to cultural awareness training is being undertaken by Victoria Legal Aid. The Indigenous Justice Committee is an active participant in these discussions and will update members if new avenues for lawyer-specific training emerge.
In the meantime, counsel may consider contacting the following providers to arrange to attend a cultural awareness training session:
On 25 September 2023, the Law Council held a webinar, bringing together distinguished legal experts to discuss the proposal to be put to Australians next month and answer questions raised by their colleagues.
The panel consisted of Professor Megan Davis, the Hon Kenneth Hayne AC KC, Professor Cheryl Saunders AO and Mr Greg McIntyre SC – some of the most esteemed legal minds in this country, particularly in Constitutional law.
The panel was unanimous in their view that the referendum proposal is simple, straightforward, safe and modest. Its strength is its simplicity.
See the full video below.
The Australian Government announced its intention for potential reform to the Constitution to give effect to the Uluru Statement from the Heart. The Uluru Statement called for a “Voice” enshrined in the Constitution to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to shape policy and legislation governing their affairs.
Senator Patrick Dodson is the Australian Government’s Special Envoy for Reconciliation and the Implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart. The implementation process involves awareness, education and consultation about the objectives, challenges and opportunities for this significant potential reform. Senator Dodson, as a Yawuru man from Broome, Western Australia, has a long history of advocating for the interests of First Nations peoples, including as a Commissioner in the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, as Chair of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation, and as Co-Chair of the Expert Panel for Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians.
He spoke on Friday, November 18 2022 to the Victorian Bar in the Neil McPhee Room and was joined by Anne Sheehan, Co-Chair, Indigenous Justice Committee with summary comments from The Honourable Ken Hayne AC KC.
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 Michelle James, Education Manager, or Anne Sheehan and Timothy Goodwin, Co-Chairs 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 six students selected for this program obtain a total of three weeks’ paid work experience at the Bar, the Supreme Court of Victoria the Federal Court of Australia and the County Court of Victoria.
To apply, complete the Indigenous Law Student's Clerkship Program Application Form.
The Victorian Bar runs a legal mentoring program that is open to Indigenous law students or graduates. Each participant is connected 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
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 Bar supports the initiatives of the Tarwirri, the indigenous law students and lawyers association of Victoria.
The Bar also supports financial assistance for Indigenous barristers. These initiatives include: