The Legal Aid NSW Aboriginal Services Unit (ASU) coordinates, develops and implements initiatives relating specifically to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients, communities and staff. Scott Hawkins manages a hard-working and harmonious team comprising Senior Legal Officer Emma Langton and Project Officer Alison Szylo.
The ASU oversees a mentoring program and state-wide network of more than 80 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff. It also provides trauma-informed cultural awareness training for all staff.
The team is especially proud of an initiative in honour of Judge Bob Bellear (1944-2005). A Noonucal/Ni-Vanuatu man from Mullumbimby, Bob helped establish the first Aboriginal Legal Service in Redfern and the Aboriginal Medical Service Redfern. He became a barrister and Public Defender before being appointed Australia’s first Aboriginal judge in 1996.
The Judge Bellear Legal Career Pathways program offers traineeships for adult school leavers and cadetships for full-time undergraduate law students. The program provides support in obtaining a law degree through financial assistance and a paid work placement of 12 weeks per year.
It also offers graduate positions in Legal Aid NSW’s Career Development program which involves a two-year placement in two legal practice areas for law graduates who have completed practical legal training and are eligible to practice.
Professional legal placements, which enable law graduates to complete their practical legal training, are offered too, alongside subsequent temporary employment for graduates to gain further work experience.
Legal Aid NSW aspires to an increased proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members, from 6 to 11 per cent of total staff by 2023.
Now in its 12th year, the Judge Bellear Legal Pathways program has supported the careers of at least 20 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander solicitors across all practice areas – criminal, family and civil law.
To find out if you qualify, visit www.legalaid.nsw.gov.au