Working to support First Nations Peoples in Australia
Artwork by Mandy Braddick, First Nations Artist from the Wandandian tribe and Gumea and Dharawal language groups.
Our history of working with First Nations communities
Our journey of legal support for and with First Nations people and First Nations led organisations began in the early 1970s, when our lawyers supported the establishment of the Aboriginal Legal Service (ALS) in Redfern, NSW. The ALS was the first free legal service in Australia. ALS’s initial volunteer lawyer cohort was largely made up of lawyers from, or who would become part of, our Australian business.
From the 1970s onwards Ashurst continued to provide pro bono legal services to First Nations people and organisations throughout Australia. Our deep relationships with key First Nations community organisations continue to this day. For example, we provide the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) with ongoing legal support and a rotating, permanent full-time secondee in their Katherine office.
First Nations people leading First Nations work
First Nations Lead
The role of “First Nations Lead” is to ensure our First Nations work is prioritised and our key principles embedded across our work and business. This position is held by Trent Wallace, who is a Wongaibon person and is a qualified lawyer. His work is focused on developing and embedding First Nations initiatives both internally and in collaboration with our commercial clients.
First Nations Pro Bono Lawyer
The role of “First Nations Pro Bono Lawyer” is held by Ruby Langton-Batty. Ruby is a proud descendant of the Iman and Bidjara people (central Queensland) and is based in Sydney. As the First Nations Pro Bono Lawyer, she works alongside other Ashurst lawyers to deliver culturally coherent, effective, and durable pro bono legal advice to First Nations clients.
Through our work in this space, we collaborate with commercial and pro bono clients on various initiatives aimed at advancing First Nations people. First Nations work is embedded across our internal business and legal functions.
We deliver culturally coherent, effective and durable pro bono legal advice to First Nations clients.
Key themes across our First Nations initiatives:
- Economic participation and prosperity
- Prioritising community ("grass roots")
- Policy and advocacy
- Learning and healing
- Cultural safety
- Looking forward: doing better and doing more
Underpinning this vision are key principles guiding our approach:
- Work needs to be First Nations led
- Relationships are critical and need to be placed at the centre of all we do
- Work needs to be culturally safe
- First Nations people should not be expected to do the "heavy lifting" to achieve change
- We need to take a "business as usual" approach every day in all we do, right across our business. This means that we practice reconciliation as a matter of course across our day to day business functions
- We need to approach the work we do with humility and candour, and always start from a position of listening to affected individuals and communities
- Our responses to community needs should always be informed by the community affected
- We need to be honest about our learnings and failings as we go about this work; and constantly work to improve our policies, strategies and approaches
- Reconciliation is a process each of us undertakes every day, and is dependent on actions, our work is underpinned by commitments made within our Reconciliation Action Plans, which we've had in place for several years
Our First Nations initiatives include:
- First Nations Legal Internship – Eagle Street
- First Nations Pro Bono and Social Impact Cadetship
- First Nations Scholarship (Qld)
- First Nations Scholarship (Mel)
Cultural Safety/Support and Thought Leadership
- Monthly Let's Yarn blogs that provide learning opportunities for staff globally
- First Nations Employee Network
- Reverse mentoring opportunities
- Cultural Leave Policy
- Regular social media posts/articles/events that acknowledge and celebrate First Nations Peoples
- Cultural learning opportunities and advice for functions across Ashurst (i.e. People & Culture, Events, Procurement) to promote First Nations initiatives and advancement across the business
- Providing advice and support to commercial clients to further strengthen relationships and collaborate on initiatives
Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP)
1 May 2023 - 30 April 2025
Our RAP is offered as an authentic commitment to First Nations advancement, a tool that is to be used for meaningful engagement which we, as a firm, developed to set out our vision for reconciliation and the role we should play in First Nations advancement. This RAP looks at Ashurst's reconciliation journey, our RAP history, our pro bono work, and lists our commitments.
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