Law student Alicia Smyth is the inaugural recipient of an Indigenous scholarship which aims to support the next generation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in law.
The ‘Excellence in Law Award’ scholarship also seeks to increase the number of female Indigenous barristers at the Queensland Bar – there are currently two First Nations women practising at the Bar in Queensland.
Alicia Smyth has a Torres Strait Islander heritage and is currently enrolled in her fourth year of a Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of Government and International Relations double degree at Griffith University.
She said receiving this scholarship would help her to make a difference and pursue her dream of becoming a barrister.
“I’ve always had a passion for human rights and the rights of minorities,” Alicia said. “Representation is so important, and I’d love to be a part of a generation that helps the legal system become a tool of empowerment for Indigenous people.
“The legal system has often been used as a tool of oppression for Indigenous people. Naturally, there’s this distrust of the legal process and system from Indigenous people and minority groups.”
Alicia relocated from Rockhampton to study in Brisbane and is on the path to become the first in her family to graduate from university.
“My Nan grew up on Badu Island and one was on 22 children,” she said. “Growing up, I didn’t have a strong connection to culture because our extended family is spread out across Queensland, but I’m on that journey of trying to connect and learn more.
“I think my family has definitely been affected by diminished opportunities,” she said. “That is what inspires me to help my people.”
The scholarship, established by Councillor Kara Cook and her husband Joshua Creamer (both pictured) includes significant mentoring and internship opportunities which Alicia said would be invaluable to her future career.
Joshua, a barrister and descendant of the Waanyi and Kalkadoon people, said the scholarship helped show these students that “there is a community and a profession behind them”.
“For us it was really important to have a component of the scholarship which was about providing mentorship and connecting like-minded people so that they can achieve great things in their career.
“The scholarship allows us to harness the goodwill and commitment from those in the legal fraternity.”