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Bilya Boorn Scholarship to grow the ranks of First Nations law students in WA

Giovanni Torre -

A joint initiative of seven leading commercial law firms has announced the establishment and launch of the Bilya Boorn Scholarship.

On Wednesday, Allens, Clayton Utz, Clifford Chance, Herbert Smith Freehills, MinterEllison, Steinepreis Paganin and Thomson Geer launched the Scholarship, which aims to increase the representation and participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in legal practice by providing scholarships for First Nations students to study law at a Western Australian university.

The result of collaboration between the seven law firms, the scholarship will provide the recipients with financial assistance of up to $20,000 for at least two years and ongoing opportunities for professional development and mentoring throughout the scholarship term and beyond. The participating firms said they "are committed to engaging with the scholarship recipients to increase their knowledge of commercial legal practice as a potential career option".

The scholarship is open to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students who are enrolled or intend to enrol in an undergraduate or postgraduate law degree at a Western Australian university. The selection criteria include financial hardship and/or personal circumstances, satisfactory academic standing, community engagement and any other achievements. The scholarship will be awarded annually, subject to availability of funds and suitable applicants.

The Bilya Boorn Scholarship is named using the Wadjuk Nyungar language group meaning of Bilya (the river) and Boorn (the trees) and the land on which this Scholarship will sit. The learning and decision making on Wadjuk Nyungar Boodja back in the old ways before and after settlement, was done on the river and with the trees and vegetation as its surrounds. There was a very strong emphasis on Law/Lore being followed and when people spoke, one person had a talking stick which was then passed on to the next person to have their say. Any conflicts or misunderstandings were done in the setting of the Bilya Boorn.

The Bilya Boorn Scholarship name was developed by Nyungar Elder Dr. Richard Walley in liaison with the University of Notre Dame Australia and the University of Western Australia.

The seven firms said the launch of the Bilya Boorn Scholarship highlights their "commitment to the promotion of increased representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in commercial legal practice in Western Australia for the betterment of the wider legal community" and "reflects the principles of reconciliation and social justice and the fostering of a culture of inclusion and respect within the law firms involved".

The participating firms also express their "genuine gratitude" for the invaluable input provided by the Western Australian Universities' representatives and members of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in the development and delivery of the scholarship.

The first recipient of the scholarship will be announced by early April 2024.

More information about the scholarship can be obtained by contacting [email protected].

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