Calling all South Australian Law Students! Introducing the Indigenous Law Student Mentoring Program
Tuesday 5 April 2016
The Indigenous Law Student Mentoring Program run by the SA legal community for Indigenous law students is now in its 10th year. About 60 law students and mentors in South Australia have taken part, and about 30 students are now enrolled. The Program is run almost entirely by volunteers and is backed by the South Australian Law Society, Indigenous legal practitioners and barristers, politicians and executive members of the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement. It provides commencing, continuing and graduate law students with an incredible opportunity to connect with legal practitioners and achieve their tertiary education goals. The Program’s mentor team provide a rich and diverse pool of resources, knowledge and experience and are committed to the development of up and coming Indigenous lawyers in South Australia. The Program aims to break down many of the barriers that might deter young Indigenous people from pursuing a legal career.
Opportunities available to students:
- one-on-one support throughout their law studies;
- someone to talk through issues that impact studies (i.e. juggling work and study, social life and study, which direction should I head, how does all of this make sense in the ‘real world’) with an experienced member of the legal profession who cares about the student being successful;
- networking – connecting with the legal profession;
- making the link between academia and legal practice
Under the supervision of Debra Sarre, students and mentors are individually matched and supported continuously throughout the course of their collaborative alliance. It is the aim of the Program to foster a mutual learning environment where legal professionals are able to contribute to the professional development of up and coming Indigenous legal practitioners in South Australia.
Barrister Alan Lindsay was one of the founding members of the mentoring program and predicts it's here to stay.
"We have great support from the profession, from leading people in the profession, from partners in large firms and judges and public servants and barristers and across the whole board. These functions become easier and easier to run, the students are making great connections and it's been going for ten years so we've got impetus behind us and people think that we'll keep going, so I think it's been fabulous."
The chief executive of the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement, Cheryl Axelby, says her organisation would welcome more Indigenous lawyers to its ranks.
"They get a growth in confidence, they also have a connection to the legal fraternity so they get exposure to all different mediums of the law, not just criminal. So there's corporate law, civil law, family law. And again, this is what we want - we want to see our community members out there - predominately we want lawyers to come to the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement of course, but we also want to see our mob out there thriving in the private business sector too."
Adnyamathanha and Kokatha man Dwayne Coutlhard who is in the fifth and final year of a Bachelor of Law degree at the University of Adelaide, says the mentoring program has given him remarkable insights into how the law works. He explains how the opportunity for mentoring has helped break down many of the barriers and mysteries that might dissuade young Indigenous people like him from forging a legal career.
"I guess we want to be heavily involved in the legal profession from the word go - and that's what it's all about. It's providing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander law students with the opportunity to be familiar with the legal profession and to really make a difference and to be comfortable - to be comfortable in your cultural identity, but also your place in the legal profession."
Arrin Hazelbane is a Warai and Kokatha man and law student at the University of Adelaide who has been part of the mentoring program for the past three years. He explains how it's enabled him to forge valuable professional connections.
"It's unheard of that law students have a mentor in the law field that's succeeding and is willing to give you their time outside of their cases so we're really lucky that we get to come to gatherings like this tonight, to meet on a social platform but also to contact them when times get tough."
Andrew Alexander is a Noongar man from Western Australia who is now studying law at Flinders University who says the mentoring program has been important for building critical connections in the legal community.
"The Indigenous law students mentoring program has been amazing, and I've taken a great deal from it. My relationship with my particular mentor has been amazing, we are in fact great friends and we catch up quite regularly."
How to Apply
Students from the University of Adelaide, Flinders University and the University of South Australia are encouraged to apply at any time in the year with mentors available upon request.
If you are interested in finding out more about the Indigenous Law Student Mentoring Program either as a mentor or a student, then please contact Debra Sarre, ILS Mentoring Consultant on 0407 431 007
For further information, contact:
University of Adelaide Law School
Flinders University Law School
Jenny Richards or Grant Nieman
University of South Australia Law School