We spoke with this year’s Queensland Law Society First Nations Award winners to learn a bit more about them and discuss their involvement with achieving justice outcomes for First Nations peoples.
The First Nations Solicitor Award recognises and celebrates Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander practitioners for their contribution to furthering access to justice for Queensland First Nations peoples.
Nareeta Davis from Holding Redlich is one of two First Nations Solicitor of the Year Award winners this year, the other recipient being Darren Lewis from Legal Aid Queensland.
Could you tell me a little bit about yourself?
I reside in Cairns, dividing my time between two careers, that of accounting and law. I identify as a descendant of the Purga Mission, Ipswich Queensland, with cultural connections to the Kullili Thargomindah people, and maternal non-Indigenous Australian heritage.
I am employed at BDO (NTH QLD) as a senior accountant within the advisory team and also employed by Holding Redlich as a solicitor. I particularly enjoy the pro bono division I work in. It is most rewarding and gives me a lot of satisfaction to assist those in need. Holding Redlich, being a national firm, is incredibly dynamic and supportive to all staff. I also am a married mum of two teenagers, which keeps me busy!
My time is also volunteered to three boards, one of which is a ministerial appointment that focuses on the repatriation of Indigenous remains and artwork from overseas to be returned safely back to Australia. I am also a member of two committees of Reconciliation Action Plans for BDO (NTH QLD) and Holding Redlich Lawyers. I find a lot of pleasure also working for CQ University in the capacity of tutoring law students and mentoring. I additionally volunteer to speak to low-socio economic schools in the Cairns region to encourage the pathway of studying further upon finishing school.
What are your interests outside of the law?
I have a beautiful red cattle dog that I find much enjoyment in walking every day. He gets spoilt a lot! Additionally, I love just being at home and spending time with my family and going to the gym.
Why did you want to pursue law?
I have always been interested in the law, and that solicitors are able to use their ability to help people. My passion is to do just that, help people, particularly those from vulnerable positions and the homeless community. I feel that it is important to be true to what you believe in and find that particular niche and focus on that in your career. The world can be a difficult and hard journey for some and how great it is to be able to help those in need to get back on their feet again!
In what way would you like to see the legal profession develop, to further improve the advancement of First Nations people?
I was told many years ago by a dear friend, a highly respected Gimuy Walubara Yidinji Indigenous elder here in Cairns, that by becoming a First Nations solicitor, slowly society would see that there are Indigenous people who can work in the corporate field and be respected for who they are, not just their nationality. By becoming a professional member of the corporate arena, in time there will be more First Nations staff in higher level positions. This advice from the elder has always stuck by me, and I remind myself to keep on plugging along and see what happens!
The profession could greatly assist more First Nations solicitors by employing those students in an administrative capacity or as a paralegal whilst studying the Bachelor of Laws. This support and guidance could provide the essential platform to embark upon the further required study to then become a qualified solicitor.
How has your current working role improved the wellbeing of Indigenous Australians?
I hope that having the privilege of being employed by two national firms, has demonstrated to other Indigenous people that the corporate world is welcoming of all nationalities and actually encourages diversity! Additionally, the roles I undertake are not ones that are ‘identified’ at all, but purely based upon my qualifications, experience and work performance.
This is so important, to be recognised for your own ability and potential. In both of my positions at the two firms, I pursue the importance of reconciliation by being a part of the Reconciliation Action Plan committees. The Indigenous representation is crucial to ensure that an Indigenous perspective is present, and not just a ‘tick and flick’ mentality conducted.
Which aspect do you enjoy most about your voluntary work with schools and universities?
I have always found much happiness in helping people and it is a part of my being. This core value that I personally hold every day I feel is much appreciated, and also needed in society and in universities. It is most rewarding to spend time with the school and academic students and be a small part of their journey.
I was not an ideal student at high school, so can resonate with the apprehension that some school students may feel and also have the idea, like I did, that only ‘smart’ and ‘rich kids’ go to university. My decision to undertake the academic journey at age 35 to study law online was incredibly hard and challenging whilst working and raising a family. I find that using this background with the law students I tutor provides great reassurance with their challenges. It is so rewarding to see the students complete subject by subject and eventually graduate!
How can the general community further assist in achieving justice outcomes?
When you see a homeless person on the streets, say hello and purchase a meal and drink. I had a lovely homeless person tell me last week: “Thank you for not treating me as if I was invisible.” Be kind and thoughtful.
Nareeta Davis has shown her passion for achieving justice outcomes for Queensland First Nations peoples and her community, and demonstrated a commitment to ongoing change. Her advocacy has improved the legal interests and rights of First Nations peoples.
QLS acknowledges First Nations people as Australia’s original custodians and inhabitants, respects their cultural distinctions and values their rich contribution to Queensland and Australia as a whole.
You can become part of positive change for First Nations people and effect policy and legislative change in Queensland.