In conversation with Kathryn Dorante

“I didn’t really know what I wanted to become, I just knew it involved empowering my people.”

– Kathryn Dorante

After five years at university, four years as a paid intern, and two amazing international trips, Kathryn Dorante is closing in on her ambition to become a human rights lawyer. She is currently working to complete her double degree in business and law while working part-time as an intern at a commercial law firm in Brisbane.

As the winner of the 2020 QLS First Nations Student of Year Award, we took a moment to find out more about Kathryn’s motivations in joining the legal profession and her vision for its future.

SD: Tell us a bit about yourself and your journey in law so far? 

KD: I am a proud Wagadagam and Meriam Torres Strait Islander woman. I grew up and completed my schooling in rural Far North Queensland before moving to Brisbane to pursue tertiary education at QUT. I’m currently in my fifth year studying a dual degree in Law (Honours)/Business (Economics). I have been fortunate to be employed as a CareerTrackers intern at Gadens for the past four years and have been involved with the Indigenous Lawyers Association of Queensland (ILAQ*) as one of their student representatives. I have also been the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Officer in the QUT Law Society and the Faculty of Law Representative for Indigiso.

This journey would not have been possible without the tremendous support of a number of people and organisations in the industry, particularly by Her Honour Justice Philippides, CareerTrackers, Gadens and the team at ILAQ. Through these networks, I have met so many incredible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peers and lawyers who inspire and support me daily. 

SD: What drives you to join the legal profession? 

KD: There were a number of factors which motivated me to join the legal profession. I have always been passionate about social justice and human rights, so studying law was a logical choice. My Indigenous heritage absolutely informed my decision as well. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are disproportionately and systemically oppressed by the justice system. I wanted to utilise the privileges I have in accessing tertiary education to gain qualifications in an area where I can become an advocate for, and empower, my people. 

SD: Where would you like to see the legal profession in 5 or 10 years’ time? 

KD: I would like to see the legal profession become better advocates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, communities and members of the profession. 

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SD: What do you think we can do, as a profession, to help realise that 5-10 year vision? 

KD: The profession must ensure workplaces are diverse and culturally safe spaces for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to work, thrive and succeed. I believe firms and individuals should publicly endorse the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody 1991, support and collaborate with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses, organisations and associations, and create opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander law students. The profession would benefit greatly from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership and should ensure its foundations are challenged in a way which encourages Indigenous success. 

SD: What would be your advice to someone who is just starting law school/studying law? 

KD: Prioritise your mental and physical health and find interests and hobbies outside of the law! 

SD: Can you tell us a bit about your life outside law – any groups or associations you’re involved in?

KD: I have been incredibly fortunate to volunteer with the First Hike Project for over a year now. The First Hike Project is an organisation which arranges hiking and camping experiences for newly arrived refugees and asylum seekers in order to welcome them to Australia. It is a huge privilege to connect with those attending the hikes – they make this country a better place! 

I am also a big rugby league fan and play myself. I recently joined the Normanby Hounds women’s team and absolutely love the camaraderie and mateship. 

Kathryn is a dynamic individual with a tremendous zeal for life and law. You can read more about her journey here although I’m sure she’ll have plenty more to share in the years to come!

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*ILAQ is a professional representative body designed to advance the profile and interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal professionals and law students within the wider legal profession in Queensland and beyond. Throughout the year, ILAQ organises a number of events and initiatives to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people participating in the Queensland legal profession and sheds light on barriers to participation. ILAQ forms an integral part of the Queensland legal profession and ensures Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander practitioners are heard and empowered. 

If you would like to collaborate with ILAQ, please send us an email at indigenouslawyersqueensland@gmail.com.  

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