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The Law Society of NSW Indigenous Reconciliation Strategic Plan 2016-2019

Our commitment to reconciliation

As the peak association for solicitors in NSW, the Law Society is dedicated to working for a just and fair legal system, having served the community for over 125 years. Our Indigenous Reconciliation Strategic Plan for 2016-2019 is an integrated part of the organisation's core business. This plan will sit alongside the Law Society’s 2016-2019 Strategic Plan.

The Law Society acknowledges that there is an unacceptable gap in life expectancy between the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of Australia and other Australians. We believe that closing the gap is of critical importance both for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and for the well-being of our nation. Reconciliation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians is both necessary for closing the gap and for the well-being of Australia as a nation. The Law Society is committed to addressing the determinants of this gap in life expectancy that are within its sphere of influence.

We are privileged to have taken part in Reconciliation Australia’s Reconciliation Action Plan program in 2012-2014. The Law Society made and maintained many new relationships, which has enabled more informed work in Indigenous affairs. This is particularly so in the Law Society’s advocacy for the protection and promotion of the rights of Indigenous people in NSW, and in providing opportunities for the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait individuals and communities to be heard by governments and other institutions.

Objectives of the 2016-2019 Plan

The 2016-2019 Plan has four broad objectives. The commitments made in respect of these objectives aim to both build on existing work; and to deepen the Law Society’s commitment to better outcomes for Indigenous people, within the legal profession and in the wider community.

(1) Engage in effective advocacy, in order to work for better outcomes for Indigenous peoples in NSW, in and through the legal system, and in respect of developing and maintaining the Law Society’s relationships with stakeholders in Indigenous affairs.
(2) Improve cultural competency and awareness within the Law Society and in the legal profession.
(3) Create and provide opportunities for Indigenous law students; lawyers; non-lawyers working in the legal context; and Indigenous enterprise.
(4) Undertake effective reporting and compliance management.

View the 2016-2019 Plan online.

Notable actions taken under the Law Society’s 2012-2014 Reconciliation Action Plan

Policy development and law reform

  • Established a busy and effective Indigenous issues standing policy committee, engaged in care and protection and pathways into family law; native title, land rights and cultural heritage; housing and homelessness; domestic and family violence; the factors affecting Indigenous incarceration rates; access to justice; and steering advice on implementation of the Law Society’s reconciliation commitments. Contact Vicky Kuek, Principal Policy Lawyer for more information about the committee and its work.
  • As a result of advocacy undertaken by the Indigenous Issues Committee, Aboriginal guardians ad litem have been appointed to the panel administered by the Department of Justice, and Aboriginal guardians are now involved in all matters involving Aboriginal people, whether as guardians or through providing advice to non-Aboriginal guardians ad litem.
  • Facilitated and hosted direct consultation between government and Aboriginal communities.

Education

  • Engagement with legal education for Aboriginal communities and Aboriginal community-controlled services to assist with self-determination and capacity building.
  • Embedding ethics and professional responsibility into our continuing professional development education seminars to the profession.
  • Providing targeted subject matter education to solicitors at the ALS NSW/ACT on request.
  • Providing annual events hosted jointly with the Judicial Commission of NSW and the NSW Bar Association on matters of importance for the legal sector interested in better outcomes for Aboriginal people.
  • Providing education for Aboriginal people who work in the legal profession as non-lawyers (such as legal support staff, court liaison officers, field and case workers). Free access is available to face to face training, as well as online courses.

Access to Justice

  • Partnership with the NSW Indigenous Chamber of Commerce to provide the Indigenous Enterprise Legal Assistance Scheme. Underpinning the Scheme is the view that successful Indigenous enterprise will assist with closing the gap in a real and sustainable way. This Scheme provides pro bono legal assistance to assist with the establishment of Indigenous enterprise. Information for solicitors interested in participating in the Scheme available from here.
  • Sustained advocacy in respect of adequate funding for legal assistance service providers including Legal Aid, Community Legal Centres and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services. Engaged particularly in advocacy for continued and stable funding for the Custody Notification Service provided by ALS NSW/ACT.

Law Society Protocol for Welcome to, and Acknowledgement of, Country

The Law Society recognises that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples have an ongoing relationship with, and obligations to, traditional lands and waters. Country remains integral to Aboriginal law, identity, culture and well-being. Welcome to and Acknowledgement of Country remains an essential practice. The Law Society welcomes the adoption of this Protocol (or an appropriately modified version of it) by its members. Law Society Protocol for Welcome to, and Acknowledgement of, Country.