The first students have graduated in a groundbreaking new program to increase the number of Aboriginal people working in the law.
The Aboriginal Legal Career Pathways Program is a partnership between Legal Aid NSW, TAFE NSW, and Macquarie University, in which students take a path from TAFE study to a law degree while working in a support role at Legal Aid NSW.
This month 18 students graduated after completing both a legal services qualification and work experience at Legal Aid NSW.
Legal Aid NSW CEO Monique Hitter said the program would help improve the legal sector for First Nations people, including for the 23 per cent of Legal Aid clients who are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.
“I cannot overstate the importance of this program, and the potential that is has for us to better serve our Aboriginal clients and to elevate Aboriginal voices in the justice system,” she said.
After graduating, participants can continue to a Graduate Certificate of Law at Macquarie University, followed by a Juris Doctor degree if they choose, supported by a full scholarship from the Macquarie University Law School.
Program graduate and Bundjalung/Wiradjuri woman Simone Roberts, 41, is planning to continue through the program to become a solicitor.
“Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been in trouble with the law and if I can prevent that and help by defending them and helping them know their rights then that’s really great,” she said.