Sydney Law School hires first Indigenous practitioner-in-residence

Sydney Law School appointed lawyer and land rights activist Teela Reid as its first Indigenous Practitioner in Residence last month.

A proud Wiradjuri and Wailwan woman, Reid is Senior Counsel at Indigenous law firm Chalk & Behrendt and a strong supporter of the Heart Uluru Declaration.

In her adjunct role as Practitioner-in-Residence, Reid will bridge a gap between academia and practice for students and foster stronger connections between law school and Indigenous communities.

“Teela is here to help decolonize the law school,” said Benjamin McGrory, First Nations Officer for the Sydney University Law Society (SULS).

“She is there to help educate non-Indigenous speakers, professors and students about the impacts of colonization, Indigenous rights and how the Western legal system can co-exist with Indigenous legal systems.

Alongside Sydney Law School Dean Professor Simon Bronitt, Dr Louise Boon-Kuo and Associate Professor Jacqueline Mowbray, Reid will serve on the school’s Indigenous Strategy and Services Committee. The committee plans to reform the law school curriculum this year.

According to McGrory, units of study, including real estate and land law, as well as civil and criminal procedure, are potential areas of decolonization and revitalization through an Indigenous lens.

This follows the University One Sydney, Many People Strategy 2021-2024which aims to “facilitate innovative and culturally sound representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge across curricula, programs and courses” within the Sydney Law School by 2023.

Asked about potential claims of tokenism by cynics, McGrory said the school “really cares” and wants to bring about “real change”.

“It won’t happen overnight, but they are taking practical steps to dismantle existing colonial systems and the barriers that Indigenous students face when studying law,” he said.

While Indigenous registrations have increased over the past decade through initiatives such as Wingara Mura Bunga Barrabuguthe University still has a lower proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students (0.9%) compared to the Australian sector (which averages 1.7%).

Support programs for Indigenous students are key to increasing enrollment and retention rates, according to McGrory.

“There needs to be a culture at law school where [Indigenous students] see Indigenous staff and Indigenous leaders, as well as mentorship and wellness programs,” he said.

Teela’s appointment comes at a good time, following the departure of academic Murri Nicole Watson to UNSW in March 2021.

“Sydney Law School has not had an Indigenous staff member for over a year. Teela is now a role model for all Indigenous students,” said McGrory.

“She has ideas for working with the law school to provide more opportunities to provide more opportunities…so that Indigenous students see themselves as being able to practice law and make a difference.

Next month, Reid will lead a college event on the Declaration of Uluru from the Heart as well as a workshop for the First Nations Voices project.

She will also speak at the University’s annual meeting. Public Lecture on Indigenous Peoples and the Lawwhich aims to “create a public platform for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander scholars to reflect on the nature of Aboriginal laws and legal traditions for a wider audience in Australia and internationally”.

Other future initiatives include a video project starting in April as well as a social media page to document the work taking place at Sydney Law School in line with its Indigenous Strategies. Reid is also working to start a podcast titled black letter law, which focuses on stories of Indigenous advocacy, as an educational resource for students.

As for the university students themselves, McGrory encourages anyone with a passion for Indigenous cultural and social issues to join the SULS First Nations Committee. Committee members will help create new events, opportunities and wellness programs for Indigenous students and their allies within the Sydney Law School.

“Don’t be afraid, you don’t need to be an expert on this. All you have to do is have a passion for social justice and helping Indigenous people,” he said.

Applications are now open to Indigenous and non-Indigenous students.

“Get involved, we want you to get involved and we welcome everyone. »

If you are interested in applying for the SULS First Nations Committee, please contact Benjamin McGrory at [email protected]

Jon J. Epps