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Indigenous lawyer Matthew Karakoulakis raises the bar to become one of the best in his legal field

Brendan Foster -

First Nations lawyer Matthew Karakoulakis likens his success in the legal field to that of AFL player Sam Powell-Pepper - you can't succeed without a supportive team, a strategic coach, and an encouraging family.

Mr Karakoulakis, who was recently named the Most Influential Leading Lawyers in Australia for 2023 at the Australasian Law Awards, said while winning the top gong was an honour, he couldn't take full credit for the win.

"Here's the thing - we all need our team, our ancestors, our Elders and our community around us," he said.

"When I hear about this recognition, the first thing that comes to mind is the amazing team we have and the wonderful support I have been able to receive from my inspiring leaders supporting me on this journey.

"This recognition is really a moment to pause and appreciate the collective journey we've been on. It's a tribute to the brilliant legal minds we collaborate with, to the tech wizards who keep us cutting edge, and of course, the inspiring leaders who set the vision for us."

The founder of AMK Law, with familial connections to Kokatha peoples and also Narungga peoples from the York Peninsula said from a young age he knew he wanted to become a lawyer because he was driven by a powerful urge to make a difference.

He also wanted to ensure that no one got left behind.

"A young me thought that becoming a lawyer was the most effective avenue for achieving that; it's a profession dedicated to helping people navigate the complexities of a system that, quite honestly, isn't designed for everyone to understand," he said.

"Of course, as a child, there were other dreams too. I aspired to be an AFL player, and I also wanted to earn a black belt in Karate. While the AFL dream didn't come to fruition and the black belt in Karate remains elusive, I did find a different but equally fulfilling path in martial arts through Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

"Mastery, whether it's in law or Jiu-Jitsu, isn't something you sprint towards. It's a marathon. It requires not just talent, but perseverance, dedication, and an almost dogged determination to contribute something meaningful to the world. That's what keeps me going—whether I'm in the courtroom advocating for a client or on the mat, grappling with an opponent."

Mr Karakoulakis said his diverse background (his father is Greek) helps him when working with clients from different cultural backgrounds.

"I carry within me two rich tapestries of culture — my Aboriginal heritage and my Greek paternal heritage," he said.

"I am proud of both dwelling inside of me because each informs who I am, how I think, and how I engage with the world.

"I find that in my work, I am able to weave these strands together in a way that allows me to deliver meaningful results for First Nations people, our clients, and corporations.

"One of his biggest motivations is empowering First Nations communities. My role, as I see it, is to facilitate that journey as much as I can. I offer legal support, mentorship, and resources to help First Nations businesses succeed and thrive."

He said his Indigenous heritage plays a pivotal role when it comes to First Nations clients and their communities.

"I didn't grow up learning culture, so I don't claim to have all the answers," he said.

"The goal is to listen, learn, and collaborate. I look to Elders; I serve the community and I learn from Aboriginal Leaders.

"You see when it comes to service for First Nations clients and Aboriginal organisations, often operating within systems that were historically designed to marginalise them, not to mention they're working against a 200-plus year head start. The challenges are immense, but we do stand on the shoulders of our Elders and ancestors by whom we are empowered."

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