The Northern Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) and leading law firm Gilbert + Tobin have teamed up to create a Legal Cadetship for an Aboriginal student studying law in the Northern Territory.

With a cadet to be placed at NAAJA in Darwin, the Cadetship was launched as part of Gilbert + Tobin’s Reconciliation Action Plan, which is committed to providing space for Indigenous law students to gain professional experience in the legal environment.

“We are really pleased to see this demonstrated commitment from law firm Gilbert + Tobin investing directly in our emerging Aboriginal talent,” said NAAJA CEO, Priscilla Atkins.

“We know there are many opportunities for our Aboriginal talent and particularly our young people in the big cities down south, and so we recognise and acknowledge the importance of creating opportunities for our mob to stay connected and contribute here at home.”

Although Atkins believes a lot more needs to be done in this area, she said NAAJA will continue to work with government and education to support new opportunities for NT-based law students.

“This arrangement with NAAJA as an Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation demonstrates that change is possible when we develop genuine partnerships across the legal system.”

This particular cadetship has been awarded to law student, Mililma (Mili) May, who is currently studying a Bachelor of Laws at Charles Darwin University.

May has had some experience already at both organisations, making her transition into the cadetship easier.

Prior to her cadetship May undertook a part time legal cadetship on Gilbert + Tobin’s pro bono team while studying in Sydney, and has also worked at NAAJA as a Community Legal Educator.

In her new role at NAAJA, May will be working part time to manage the delivery of Community Legal Education at Don Dale Youth Detention Centre.

Community Legal Education (CLE) involves lawyers creating specialised packages for communities, organisations or, in this case, youth detention centres.

“We educate them about the law, not only what their rights are but what their responsibilities are,” Atkins said.

NAAJA currently services over 20 remote communities across the Territory with CLE packages.

“It’s tailor-made for different communities … working with communities on education about the law specific to their region.”

Atkins said placing Aboriginal students with Aboriginal organisations allows students to have a large support network.

“Our organisation has been delivering culturally appropriate legal services for over 40 years,” Atkins said.

“It’s the support network [staff] get … over 50% of our workforce is Aboriginal.”

Head of Corporate and Social Responsibility at Gilbert + Tobin, Eloise Schnierer is in full support of May taking on the new cadetship.

“A key priority of our RAP is to address the underrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the legal profession,” Schnierer said.

Schnierer said Gilbert + Tobin dedicates a significant amount of resources to their Indigenous Legal Cadetship program to offer work opportunities during study as well as support students’ ongoing careers.

“Mili will be an asset to NAAJA both now and in the future. I’m personally looking forward to seeing her finish her law degree and join the growing number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lawyers in the Northern Territory.”

Atkins agreed, saying the cadetship will strengthen May’s career opportunities in future.

“Not only does she have the opportunity to work with us, a large Aboriginal service, but also the opportunity at a private firm as well.

“It’s different clientele [and] different styles of law … [there are] a number of different areas to work across.”

By Hannah Cross