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National Indigenous Legal Conference

The 12th National Indigenous Legal Conference 2017 - Aboriginal Lives Matter: 50 years on from the 1967 Referendum, Restoring, Reclaiming and Revitalising our Rights in Law was held in South Australia on November 16-17.

Inaugural National Indigenous Legal Professional of the Year Award recipient and Co-Chair of the Law Council’s Indigenous Legal Issues Committee, Tony McAvoy SC, recognised the outstanding achievements of this year’s National Indigenous Law Awards (NILA) recipients at the Conference Gala Dinner on Friday evening.

The Attorney-General’s Department NILA aims to highlight and recognise the achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians who demonstrate a passion and commitment to improving justice outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

Brisbane barrister Joshua Creamer received the National Indigenous Legal Professional of the Year Award.

In 2015, Josh began work on Wotton v State of Queensland regarding the events surrounding the 2004 death of Palm Island’s Mulrinji (aka Cameron Doomadgee) in police custody. This was the largest racial discrimination case since Mabo and resulted in multiple findings of unlawful racial discrimination by the Queensland Police Service and individual officers.

Josh is currently representing a group of Aboriginal people who were not paid for years of labour as stockmen or domestic workers as part of the Queensland stolen wages’ class action.

Michelle Rabbidge who is studying a Bachelor of Laws at QUT took out the National Indigenous Law Student of the Year Prize. Michelle overcame many barriers to study and plans to become a criminal lawyer to improve the experiences of vulnerable people, especially Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Law Council of Australia President, Fiona McLeod SC, delivered a keynote speech on the final day of the conference, the same day the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory delivered their final report.

“Two lessons will be repeated today – that our children do not belong in jails; and that health, poverty, violence, substance abuse and unresponsive justice and child protection systems compound intergenerational trauma,” Ms McLeod told the audience.

Ms McLeod outlined the complexities around high Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander incarceration rates and spoke of changes to laws and practices that would immediately yield outcomes, reduce recidivism, save money, and prevent crime.

She spoke of Justice reinvestment trials and specialist courts in consultation with Indigenous leaders also having positive impacts on community empowerment and ownership of justice solutions.

Ms McLeod spoke of the Law Council’s Justice Project which is shining a light on access to justice issues for 13 group experiencing significant disadvantage in Australia and what is being done to address access to justice barriers for those groups, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

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