Reflections on Kristy; NAIDOC Week 2019, mentoring & the Legal Profession.

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NAIDOC Week 2019 calls for Voice.  One of these voices is the need for more Aboriginal lawyers in Australia and for this, we need more mentors of aspiring Indigenous law students.


I met Kristy in the early 2000s.  At Uni.  She made a lasting impression.  We boarded together at The Womens College.  Our entrance, the Main Wing, was adorned by thick, decades’ old wisteria vines that heralded Spring with brilliant purple blooms.

Serendipity also blossomed in those years.  We happened to be residents during the “Q” era.  “Q” was short for Quentin, our College Principal.   We had some golden years under her mentorship.  Then, one Sunday in 2003,  we all gathered to farewell her on the front lawn.  She was making tracks for her next appointment; Governing the State of Queensland.  Subsequently, the Country, as Dame Quentin Bryce.  But even in those roles, I am quite sure that she kept a watchful eye over many of us.

Kristy and I shared many things in common.  Both law students.  Both from the country.  She in Bourke, me in Bowral.  Both from big families.  Both with school teacher mums.  Both passionate about art and music. Both cramming as much life into each day that we could; lectures, seminars, what seemed like unending law readings, random part time jobs, endless College events and many moments of laughter and fun.

Kristy was a great story teller. She had a way with words and a captivating presence.  And she had many great stories to tell, even as a young woman.

One difference between us is our ethnicity.  Kristy is Aboriginal.

Kristy was inspired to study law as a teenager. Her catalyst was an incident in Bourke. She was with her bother and cousin.   They were playing with a basketball in a local street.  A police officer approached them.  Abruptly, they were asked to stop playing with the ball.  Her brother and cousin swore back at the police.  Swiftly, the boys were arrested for offensive language.  Kristy was shocked at the harsh treatment.  She knew it was not right.

Events like this inspired Kristy to know more about her legal rights and those of the people around her.   She was a talented student and a fearless natural advocate with a gift with words. Combined with her sense of justice, her teachers urged her to study law.

Kristy has gone on to do remarkable things in the law.  She has worked for Justice Slattery of the Supreme Court of New South Wales,  as a Solicitor with NSW Legal Aid and she has coordinated the Maranguka Justice Reinvestment Project in Bourke.

Kristy contributes to communities in her local region and beyond.  She is fuelled by her desire to give voice to others, particularly for Indigenous youth.  Not only does she have a voice, but she has the voice of a woman with excellent education and experience, and, she uses it.   Her voice can be heard amongst the noise.  She is a shining role model for all aspiring Indigenous law students.

Reflecting back to when we were students, I realise now that Q was a wonderful mentor to many young women, including me and Kristy.  If it looked as though we were even thinking about alternatives, or slacking off from our studies,  Q would ensure that we stuck things out and pulled our socks up.  Kristy would often joke that she had no choice but to finish her law degree because Q would have it no other way.  Q had high expectations of Kristy and rightly so.


This week we celebrate NAIDOC week.  This year’s theme is Voice. Treaty. Truth. Let’s work together for a shared future.


NAIDOC week and this year’s theme makes me reflect.  In particular, I reflect on mentoring and the long lasting impact of effective mentors, such as Q.  And how a good mentor can strengthen our voice, load it with persuasion and ensure that our voice is heard.

Legal Profession 

I wish I had more Aboriginal colleagues in the legal profession.  Australia can only be better with more Aboriginal lawyers.  It is so important that the legal profession reflects Australian society.  It ought to be made up of people from the breadth of the Australian community.

In 1970, the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people graduating from university did not hit double digits, let alone in law. Australia’s first Aboriginal law graduate was Mallenjaiwakka (formerly Lloyd McDermott) in 1972.  The numbers of such graduates are now in the hundreds.  An improvement. But still disproportionately low.

Many legal institutions are deeply concerned about the under-representation of Indigenous lawyers in the law.  One of them is the NSW Bar Association.

Some opportunities 


The NSW Bar Association has a mentoring program for First Nations law students with both barristers and Judges.  The aim of the program is to equip the mentees with practical legal knowledge, networks and experience

Employment Scheme

The NSW Bar Association promotes an employment scheme for First Nations law students.  It aims to identify part-time employment opportunities with a barrister or at a chambers including research and administrative work.

Less formal avenues

If people don’t wish to pursue formal programs, they should feel welcome to approach members of the profession directly.  My door is always open.  And I am sure that most of my colleagues share this view.

More information 

More information is available here


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