Issue 130: September 2018
Colin Biggers & Paisley trek the outback to raise funds for Artists in the Black
Walking up to 23 km a day through the central Australian desert may seem an unusual way of supporting access to justice, but one pro bono project has done exactly that, proving along the way that thinking outside the square can deliver multiple benefits for the client group, the working relationship and the delivery of legal services.
On 19 August a team from Colin Biggers & Paisley together with Arts Law’s Chief Executive Officer Robyn Ayres set out across Uluru-Kata Tjuta and Watarrka to raise funds for the Arts Law’s Artists in the Black program (AITB), trekking over 50km in five days.
The project builds on the success of last year’s Top End Challenge, a Colin Biggers & Paisley Foundation initiative that saw a team of hikers taking on Kakadu National Park to raise funds enabling Arts Law to employ a new full-time AITB lawyer. This year’s challenge has raised almost $40,000 to date, which will help Arts Law to keep that staff position.
The AITB program helps Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists to protect their intellectual property from misuse and misappropriation. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists’ creations are not only a source of income but also an expression of their culture. The program addresses the exploitation of these artists, including reproduction of artworks without the artist’s permission, withholding of royalties owed and copyright infringement.
Colin Biggers & Paisley Managing Partner Nick Crennan, who led the trek, said:
“This program makes such an important contribution to autonomy and resilience in these communities, offering these artists hope and opportunity.” The thirteen hikers representing the practice included lawyers at various levels and members of other teams including Talent Acquisition, Communications, Knowledge and Learning, and Pro Bono and Responsible Business. Engaging broad practice participation helped to boost their support for AITB, with each trekker setting a personal fundraising goal.
The project also recognised the value of engaging directly with local Aboriginal communities. Robyn said:
“The way Colin Biggers & Paisley organised the trip was to maximise the opportunity to support Aboriginal businesses and have an opportunity to interact with local Anangu people who were extremely generous in sharing their knowledge and culture with us — such as the morning we spent with senior artists at Maruku Arts in the Mutitjulu community.”
Karen Iles, Colin Biggers and Paisley’s Director of Pro Bono and Responsible Business, agreed. “The trek deepened the practice’s understanding and knowledge of our AITB clients through the interaction with Aboriginal communities which built upon the cultural engagement sessions Arts Law had already provided to our lawyers.”
Robyn found that conversations along the way helped to strengthen Arts Law’s partnership with Colin Biggers and Paisley. “This was an opportunity to deepen the relationship with the practice and many of their staff, both the trekkers and their supporters,” she said. “I also really benefitted from the opportunity to interact across the team, taking the opportunity to benefit from the significant experience of some of my fellow trekkers. It would be great if all the walking, talking and listening could be counted as part of my CPD as I felt I learned so much!”
Karen agreed: “The trek was fun, in the lead-up and associated fund-raising activities as well as the trek itself as well as the follow-up and sharing afterwards.”
Physically, however, the trek was demanding. “There were a few tricky aspects”, said Robyn. “On one occasion we were walking high up along a rocky cliff platform at Kings Canyon and our track came fairly close to the edge. I know that more than a few of us felt quite challenged but managed to continue on regardless.”
The project demonstrates the advantage of a pro bono partnership taking a broader approach to supporting access to justice. “Pro bono is crucial as it magnifies what we are able to achieve both in terms of volume as well as the depth of advice provided,” said Robyn. “But it is important for law firms to think beyond pro bono as the only way to support community legal centres, not-for-profits and the disadvantaged client groups we work with, and to consider how they can increase their impact in the community.”
By exploring other ways to engage with clients, Colin Biggers and Paisley and Arts Law have shown how pro bono partnerships can empower their people to create impact where it is needed in the broader community.
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