Bundjalung man Joshua Apanui, a First Nations legal executive at Queensland Law Society, is one of three recipients of Bond University’s inaugural Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice (GDLP) Indigenous scholarship.
The full-fee Indigenous scholarship, funded by Brisbane barrister Douglas Murphy QC, aims to provide opportunities for Indigenous Australians by covering tuition expenses for the online GDLP course which runs over two semesters.
Having graduated with a law degree from Griffith University in June this year, the scholarship will assist Joshua in his goal of being admitted as a legal practitioner.
“It’s an honour,” Joshua said. “There’s a process and only particular people have the chance to get it. And it’s coming out of someone else’s pocket which means a lot.
“For it to happen, it allows us to do more and to provide more within the legal profession.
“It really does reinforce to me that whatever you do and wherever you go, always give back to the next generation or to anybody who might be able to benefit.”
Joshua comes from a construction and mining background and was working as a boilermaker before making the decision to pursue a legal career. He once found himself on the wrong side of the law as an offender in the justice system, but has since been travelling along a different path towards making a positive impact in the community and helping other people.
Joshua says the First Nations legal executive role at QLS has allowed him to build a network, collaborate with other lawyers and learn and grow in the profession. He has also been a part of supporting the roll-out of the Society’s five-year First Nations cultural outreach strategy.
“Getting to roll that out, to learn how to communicate and make and keep relations with internal and external stakeholders has been really good,” he said. “What we’re working on within the cultural outreach strategy is to increase the numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal practitioners.”
Joshua presenting at this year’s annual Gold Coast legal conference.
Joshua was given the opportunity to present at the annual Gold Coast legal conference in July where he spoke about cultural awareness. He says he would like to see more culturally-appropriate pathways available for Aboriginal people to enable them to enter the legal fraternity – particularly in the regions.
“When you really look at traditional culture, it’s an oral culture,” he said. “As opposed to the standard four-year university degree, there has to be some way where we can mix a university degree that doesn’t go for so long, with legal experience in practice.
“How do you try and do that in the context of the legal profession? The simplest way I can see it is having some kind of traineeship that goes for three or four years, working in a law firm.
“It’s the way in which people teach, but it’s also the way in which Aboriginal people learn – it’s not through a textbook.”
Joshua plans to continue advocating for the advancement of First Nations peoples in the profession and in the wider community. Going forward, he is optimistic about his future in law and says he is excited to see what kind of positive difference he can make.
“The advocacy component is a big part of where I want to go,” he said. “Around legal policy and the areas that affect Aboriginal people the most, is where I want to get experience as a practising lawyer – criminal law and native title if I get the opportunity.
“You can make a difference with whatever your passion or your battle is.”
For more information about issues affecting Indigenous Australians, read Joshua Apanui’s Proctor articles.