Indigenous barrister Nathan Jarro has become a judge of the District Court in Brisbane in a move that has been welcomed as an important appointment for First Nations people.
Not only is Judge Jarro one of only two Indigenous judges currently presiding over an Australian courtroom; he is also the first Indigenous judge to take the bench in Queensland.
Queensland Attorney General and Minister for Justice Yvette D’Ath announced Judge Jarro’s appointment recently. He will be officially welcomed to the courts on April 12.
“This is an important appointment for Queensland justice,” Mrs D’Ath said.
“Nathan Jarro brings significant litigation experience to the role as a barrister.”
Judge Jarro, a Ghangulu and Bidjara man, could not be contacted for comment.
There is only one other Indigenous judge sitting in the upper courts in any other Australian state or territory – and federally.
Federal Court Circuit judge Matthew Myers, also a professor of law at the University of New South Wales, was appointed a judge of the Federal Circuit Court in January 2012.
He has also just completed the Australian Law Reform Commission’s report on Indigenous incarceration.
The late Robert Bellear was Australia’s first Aboriginal judge and served as a District Court judge in New South Wales from 1996 until 2005 when he died.
The Indigenous Lawyers Association of Queensland said Judge Jarro’s appointment was “a greatly historic event”.
“Not since the appointment of Judge Robert Bellear in 1996 and Matthew Myers in 2012 have we seen an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander lawyer appointed as a judge in another state or federal jurisdiction,” president Avelina Tarrago said.
“It is important to see Judge Jarro recognised for his litigation experience.”
Ms Tarrago said Judge Jarro was a founding member and the first president elected to the ILAQ in 2007.
“Judge Jarro’s appointment is an inspiration to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” she said.
“ILAQ encourages future judicial appointments in all jurisdictions, as well as appointments to the Bar as junior and senior counsel.”
Blazing a trail
Queensland Law Society president Ken Taylor said he hoped Judge Jarro’s appointment would be the first of many First Nations practitioners to higher judicial office.
“I would like to congratulate Mr Jarro on his appointment to this important role,’’ Mr Taylor said.
“The representation of First Nations people in the judiciary is long overdue and we hope this appointment is the first of many to the higher courts.
“QLS would encourage both the state and federal governments to continue the advancement of Indigenous Australian’s to higher judicial office in future appointments.’’
Judge Jarro began his career in family and criminal law but later focused on insurance, administrative, commercial and property law.
Mrs D’Ath said he had held the role of deputy Public Interest Monitor since 2011.
“He’s also adept at alternative dispute resolution techniques as a long-standing tribunal member for the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal and Mental Health Review Tribunal,” she said.
“And he has a strong history of involvement in his community as a current board director for the Queensland Theatre Company, chair of the QUT Indigenous Education and Employment Consultative Committee, and former board director of NITV.”
Judge Jarro received his Bachelor of Laws from Queensland University of Technology in 1999.
He worked as a solicitor in private practice before joining the bar in 2004.
Australia’s first Indigenous silk, Tony McAvoy, said Judge Jarro’s appointment was “hugely significant” for First Nations people.
“He will be a very good judge (in) bringing his life experiences and western legal knowledge to the judicial process,” Mr McAvoy said via social media.