First Nations Strategy –
Looking Back, Moving Forward
The Centre’s commitment to Australia’s First Nations peoples
The Australian Pro Bono Centre (the Centre) has committed to supporting the nation’s reconciliation movement. To that end, the Centre has:
- Introduced a First Nations Strategy, Looking Back, Moving Forward, which outlines the concrete actions we have committed to undertaking towards this goal. The Strategy is set out below.
- Issued a Response to the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which is also set out below. The Centre also made a submission in response to the Interim Report to the Australian Government: Indigenous Voice Co-Design Process.
- Developed key resources and services which demonstrate our commitment to the Uluru Statement, which are outlined at the end of this page.
Looking Back, Moving Forward – the Centre’s First Nations Strategy
The Centre’s First Nations Strategy sets out the following activities which the Centre has committed to undertaking:
- Cultural Generosity Training: The Centre is committed to providing all staff members with cultural generosity training.
- Uluru Statement: The Centre publicly supports the Uluru Statement (see below).
- First Nations Board Member: The Centre is committed to appointing a board member who identifies as an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person.
- Policy, Research and Advocacy work: The Centre has been conducting research to map the unmet legal need priorities of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to align them with organisations supporting this client group and pro bono opportunities, with a focus on the findings in the Law Council of Australia’s Justice Project Final Report.
- Engagement and Awareness-Raising: The Centre has developed this First Nations-specific resource page on its website. The Centre will continue to commit to supporting First Nations speakers at its biennial National Access to Justice & Pro Bono Conference, and the inclusion of stories on First Nations issues and initiatives in its publications.
- First Nations Suppliers: The Centre will endeavour to use Supply Nation when considering its operational needs. The Centre will suggest the engagement of particular First Nations vendors for the next National Access to Justice & Pro Bono Conference, or suggest a minimum spend be directed to First Nations vendors.
- Centre’s Attendance at Key Calendar Events: The Centre has developed a policy to encourage staff attendance at First Nations events of national significance.
- Business Cards & Email Signatures: The business cards and email signatures for employees of the Centre include an Acknowledgement of Country.
- Centre Websites: The homepage of websites managed by the Centre include an Acknowledgement of Country.
- Employment Opportunities: The Centre strongly encourages Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to apply for positions at the Centre, and will incorporate cultural considerations into its interview processes.
- Internships: The Centre is considering the development of an internship opportunity for First Nations law students.
The Centre’s response to the Uluru Statement from the Heart
The Australian Pro Bono Centre recognises the rich culture and extraordinary resilience of Australia’s first sovereign Nations, whose continuous occupation of the land stretches back for over 60,000 years. The Centre also acknowledges the significant barriers to access to justice experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including the alienation of children from their families and the disproportionately high rates of incarceration of Indigenous peoples. The Centre supports the reforms set out in the Uluru Statement from the Heart, issued by the First Nations National Constitutional Convention, empowering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to take a rightful place in their own country and have a say in the laws and policies that affect them. The Centre’s response to the Uluru Statement is as follows.
To the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of Australia
We thank you for your invitation to walk with you in a movement of the Australian people for a better future. We recognise the Uluru Statement as a generous and powerful call to action, and we share your vision for a world where you, Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, have power over your destinies and your children flourish.
As the centre of leadership for pro bono legal services in Australia, we are committed to working with you, the First Nations people of Australia, to achieve the goals set out in the Uluru Statement, including encouraging pro bono legal services that support the principles and objectives of the Statement.
We hear and support your call for constitutional reforms to empower your people to take a rightful place in your country. We support your call for a Makarrata Commission to oversee the making of agreements between First Nations people and governments, and to supervise truth-telling about our history. We look to the future of our country with hope for a brighter tomorrow.
You can view the Uluru Statement here.
Resources and services
The Centre has taken several steps to demonstrate its commitment to the Uluru Statement. In particular:
- Research: The Centre has been conducting research to map the unmet legal need priorities of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (as identified in the Law Council’s Justice Project Final Report), and to align them with organisations supporting this client group and pro bono opportunities. The findings of this mapping project are available here.
- ExpertsDirect Pro Bono Service: The Centre has developed the ExpertsDirect Pro Bono Service in collaboration with ExpertsDirect. This service puts pro bono lawyers and community lawyers in touch with professionals who are willing to provide expert witness services for free or at low cost in legal cases assisting the disadvantaged or marginalised. The Centre continues to regularly receive applications for the ExpertsDirect Pro Bono Service from lawyers acting on behalf of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients. Since the launch of the service, we have received applications for expert evidence in a variety of important matters, including to support a coronial investigation into an Indigenous death in custody and to assist in several matters involving allegations of mistreatment of Indigenous people by state institutions.
- Cultural Awareness: The Centre encourages all organisations to provide cultural awareness training for their staff.
- Reconciliation Australia recommends using their ‘Share Our Pride’ resource as a way to start your cultural awareness journey.
- Reconciliation Australia also recommends visiting the Supply Nation website to find Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander owned companies that can provide you with cultural awareness training.
- Other Resources: The Centre has developed the following resources for public use (written by Trent Wallace):
- a short form guide on how to be an ally to First Nations Australians
- a practical guide to supporting First Nations people through the consumption of music, television, film, books and reports.
The Centre wishes to thank Trent Wallace, former Australian Government Solicitor Secondee Policy & Project Officer to the Centre, for sharing his lived experience as an Aboriginal man with our team, and his invaluable contribution to our First Nations Strategy and related documents.