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8 Indigenous L. Bull. 19 (2012-2017)
Quadrivum: So You Want to Be a Laywer

handle is hein.journals/indibull8 and id is 347 raw text is: 



by Dennis Foley

Quadrivium; we are at a crossroads, a place where many journeys
meet. For there are many choices for Aboriginal' students to
pursue successful careers in law, however the study of law is not
uniform  it has as many differing forms and specialisations as there
are colours in confectionary. As a vocation some are simple and
sweet and others difficult and sour. Within the next few pages I will
discuss  based on my own  academic research  an area where
Aboriginal Australia desperately needs Indigenous lawyers to help
our people achieve self-determination and financial independence.

Foralmosttwo decades I have given academic advice to Australian
Indigenous students as to which vocation to pursue. Many want to
study law and ever since the successful High Court challenge by
the late Eddie Mabo2, there has been a growing stream ofstudents
with a compelling desire to correct past injustices and work for
their communities in the area of native title. You see them in the
interview all bright eyed and bushy tailed, first semester they are
still effervescent and keen, and by about mid semester year one,
they realise that law is hard work with some law professors almost
destroying their desire to help their people. By the end of second
year many have swapped over to other degrees, by first semester
of the last year of those that remain, few know where they want to
specialise, while the rest just want to finish. Statistically and sadly
of those Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander students who finish,
only a small percentage will follow their passion and become
practitioners. The difference between those that start and those
that finish is a human quality that we all have, but only few of us
master. It's about being able to maintain your driving ambition,
your passion to achieve or keeping thatfire in the bellyalive?

Lawyers can specialise in many different areas of law which can
include: equal opportunity law; tort law; industrial law; family law;
consumer law; taxation law; environmental law; nativetitle lawand
constitution law. However from my academic experience one of
the most important areas of practice for Aboriginal Australians is
the area of commercial law.

The  numbers  of Aboriginal owned small business enterprises
have exploded within the last 20 years. When I commenced my
research in the early 1990s it was difficult to locate Aboriginal
businesses due to their physical lack of numbers.This was further
hampered   as many hid their identity due to overt and covert
racism from the dominant culture. Now Aboriginal enterprises are
becoming  an important group within the Australian commercial
sector and are more easily identified because society is more
acceptable of Aboriginal people being active in the commercial

With increasing education levels being attained by Aboriginal
people  in general, and improved knowledge  of recognising
potential  business possibilities, Aboriginal commerce  in
Australia has bloomed  resulting in more Aboriginal enterprises
producing  goods and  services for sale in the modern market
economy.'  Aboriginal enterprises by and large contribute to
fostering social cohesion and recognition of Aboriginal people.6
The establishment of more Aboriginal businesses is crucial for
fostering independence for Aboriginal people from government
welfare and largely non-Aboriginal workplaces.'

Self-employed Aboriginal people who  are entrepreneurial are
becoming  an increasingly important component of Indigenous
economic  activity. The numbers of self-employed people have
increased from 4600  to 12 500 in the two decades to 2011.
Research by the author8 and Foley and Hunter9 has shown a link
between  self employment and  entrepreneurial activity. Due to
the poor statistical data sets available to academics, such as the
pre 2012  National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social
Surveys ('NATSISS') (which had a limited sample base and true
representation) the author, after extensive consultation with
peers at the Australian National University ('ANU'); networking
with Victorian, Queensland and New  South Wales Indigenous
Chambers  of Commerce; as well as other Aboriginal representative
bodies, more accurately estimates the number of self-employed
Aboriginal businesses to be at 25 000.

INDIGENOUS LAW BULLETIN March / April, Volume B, Issue 11 1 19

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