Mature-age Indigenous people will be able to gain direct entry to The University of Western Australia's postgraduate law degree, the Juris Doctor, through a new diploma to be launched tomorrow.
The one-year Advanced Diploma in Indigenous Legal Studies has been devised by UWA academics and the WA legal profession and is based on extensive consultations with Indigenous people, lawyers and major law firms.
Assistant Professor Mel Thomas, Law Coordinator at UWA's School of Indigenous Studies, said the diploma would ensure Indigenous people had equal opportunity to succeed in mainstream law.
"It also enables them to engage critically with the legal issues affecting Indigenous peoples, empowering students to understand the nature of the Australian legal system and Indigenous arguments about law, justice and the land," Professor Thomas said.
The course offers introductory law units taught by the Faculty of Law in first semester, while Indigenous Knowledge, History and Heritage units are taught by the School of Indigenous Studies.
Students also undertake a paid workplace practicum unit supported by prominent law firms, the Australian Government Solicitor, State Solicitor's Office and the WA Supreme Court.
In first semester this year, students have been placed with law firms Allens Linklaters Ashurst and DLA Piper while next semester students will be placed with Corrs, Clayton Utz and the Australian Government Solicitor. Next year, students will go to Freehills, Lavan Legal, Clifford Chance, King & Wood Mallesons, Squire Sanders and Jackson McDonald.
Professor Thomas said during the past 20 years, UWA's School of Indigenous Studies - in partnership with the Faculty of Law - had provided Indigenous people with a pathway to Law studies and the legal profession through the five-week intensive Pre-Law program.
Graduates include 2012 Young Australian of the Year finalist and 2012 Young People's Human Rights Medal winner Krista McMeeken, the Director of the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples and Vice-Chairperson of NAIDOC Perth, Tammy Solonec and Danille Bracknell, who is working for the Australian Securities and Investments Commission's Indigenous Outreach Program.
Professor Thomas said 50 UWA Indigenous law graduates - the highest number in the nation - had become successful legal professionals, academics and policy-makers.
"The Advanced Diploma will continue to provide students with an equally effective pathway into law studies and the legal profession, and equip students with both theoretical and practical training," he said.