Indigenous Legal Advocacy Clinic

What is Indigenous Legal Advocacy Clinic?

The Indigenous Legal Advocacy Clinic will engage with current law and policy issues impacting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Students will work in small groups in partnership with an Aboriginal legal service or related body on an issue of law or justice identified by the partner organisation. Students will meet with their partner organisation/s to develop their understanding of the issue/s and the needs of the organisation. They will then work in clinic to analyse the legal and policy issues and develop a response for use by the partner organisation. Clinical projects may include legislative submissions, amicus briefs and law and policy analysis.

What will I learn?

Students build on their research, analytical and presentation skills to develop and deliver community legal education materials for schools and the wider community. Through the Indigenous Legal Advocacy Clinic students will:

  • Demonstrate basic legal writing and research skills, including oral and written communication and drafting skills, and the ability to produce timely and professional written work-product that may be relied upon by other professionals;
  • Apply research skills, including the ability to identify, research, evaluate and synthesise relevant factual, legal and policy issues in the context of a complex area of law and policy;
  • Develop personal and professional skills, including learning autonomously, being accountable for one’s work, self-reflection on performance and ethical professional conduct and development;
  • Develop a basic understanding of the challenges faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Australian legal system;
  • Develop skills in legal research, writing, advocacy and problem-solving skills in an areas of law relevant to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples;
  • Develop skills required for effective workplace performance, such as communication, time management, co-worker collaboration and office organisation; and
  • Acquire research and reflection skills, the ability to engage in high-level analysis and critical reflection, and to develop and articulate ideas for social change based on theoretical and empirical knowledge of the operation of the law;
  • Demonstrate the practical, interpersonal, technical skills and ethical awareness needed to practise effectively in a team of legal researchers, including in the areas of collaborative work, research, communication, and management of briefs for external stakeholders;
  • Gain practical experience in communicating complex legal concepts and ideas to non-specialist audiences;
  • Develop an understanding of and the ability to choose appropriate methods for identifying and developing written materials to communicate with non-lawyers.

Where will I go?

Students will undertake 12 days of clinical work at Melbourne Law School under the supervision of the clinic supervisor and subject coordinator. Students will be taught lawyering skills in persuasive writing, organisational collaboration, and advocacy. Partner organisations include the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service, Kinchela Boys Home Aboriginal Corporation, the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency, Djirra and other Aboriginal community organisations TBA.

The clinical work will be complemented by seminars (held across the semester during the clinic day) on substantive legal topics relevant to the projects, as well as on the historical, cultural and political context of indigenous legal rights. At the end of semester, students will present their completed work to their partner organisation.

Guest speakers and site visits (where possible) will be organised to enhance students’ understanding of contemporary legal policy issues impacting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities.

Students will also take part in debrief sessions, where they will evaluate their progress and reflect on the role and impact of law and practice on Aboriginal communities and organisations. Students will be required to maintain a reflective journal during semester to facilitate these discussions

Where will this take me?

The Indigenous Legal Advocacy Clinic will provide an opportunity for students to develop skills in legal research, writing, advocacy and problem-solving skills in an areas of law relevant to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Students will also develop applied research skills, including the ability to identify, research, evaluate and synthesise relevant factual, legal and policy issues in the context of a complex area of law and policy. Skills in these areas will be useful for students interested in Indigenous legal and social justice advocacy including work for Aboriginal organisations, community legal centres and non-government organisations.

About your coordinator

Amanda Porter

Amanda is a criminologist and legal historian whose teaching interests include criminal law, police powers, policing history, and legal writing and research. She is Senior Fellow (Indigenous Programs) and co-director of the Indigenous Law and Justice Clearinghouse at Melbourne Law School. Her research examines the causes and prevention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths in custody.

Information sessions

Melbourne Law School Clinics recommend that students interested in the Indigenous Legal Advocacy Clinic attend one of our clinic information sessions aimed at providing key information and answering any questions students may have.

Information sessions are generally held in September each year and applications open at that time. Generally, applications as well as information sessions will open around mid-September each year.

Finalised dates, times, locations and registration for these sessions will be announced:

  • In the JD Newsletter
  • On the Canvas LMS in the JD Community
  • On digital signage located throughout Melbourne Law School

How do I apply?

Generally, applications as well as information sessions will open around mid-September each year.

Application dates and times will be announced:

  • In the JD Newsletter
  • On the Canvas LMS in the JD Community
  • On digital signage located throughout Melbourne Law School

Application outcomes will be sent out before each year's timely re-enrolment period so that students can make informed subject selections.