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First Nations business leaders in focus: Leah Cameron

Marrawah Law
Marrawah Law Founder and Principal Solicitor Leah Cameron (centre) with colleagues (from left) Kylie Arlidge and Mikaela French.

Tasmanian-born Trawlwoolway (Palawa) woman Leah Cameron had seen that many First Nations people were receiving inadequate support from legal advisors because of a cultural divide.

In 2013 she formed Marrawah Law to help bridge this gap.

The Indigenous firm – led by Leah as Principal Solicitor – provides commercial, native title and property law services. With offices in Brisbane, Cairns, Melbourne and Hobart, its service offering over the last decade has expanded to assist not only its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients, but also large corporates and governments.

Among Leah’s many accolades, she was last year recognised as Indigenous Businesswoman of the Year by Supply Nation, and in 2018 (and 2016) as First Nations Lawyer of the Year by Queensland Law Society. She was also recently appointed as an Indigenous heritage expert on the Australian Heritage Council, and as a board member for Community Enterprise Queensland.

Leah recently shared her insights with QLS Proctor.

QLS Proctor: Could you tell me more about your work at Marrawah Law?

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Leah: As the Founder and Principal Solicitor, I balance my time working ‘in the business’ and ‘on the business’. I work directly with our clients but also support the team in their work with clients. I also do a lot of networking, business development and, because we are growing, recruitment.

Like many founders who are also working parents, it can be a juggle, but I am so proud of the team we are growing and the level of service we are providing to our clients. We are also supporting other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses to succeed, which is critically important to me.

QLS Proctor: What does ‘Indigenous Business Month’ mean to you?

Leah: As an Aboriginal woman I know all too well how important it is for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to ‘do things the right way, not the easy way’. When I established Marrawah Law, the driver was not only to provide culturally appropriate advice and representation, but for the advice to be given by people who knew first-hand the clients’ experiences and respected the clients’ right to speak for themselves and self-determine. 

Indigenous Business Month is really important to shine a light on those companies that are working hard to deliver the highest level of services or goods. We work closely with other Indigenous businesses, so we welcome the opportunity to celebrate our successes.

QLS Proctor: You founded Marrawah Law almost 10 years ago. How have you seen its impact grow over this time?

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Leah: While there has been an increase in diversity in the past decade, when I was studying and first entered the workforce there were very few lawyers who shared my experiences, and the experiences of the communities they were going about to ‘serve’. 

In establishing a boutique practice, initially focused on native title and commercial law to support Indigenous business and Traditional Owners, my priority was to ensure that there would be Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lawyers bringing their unique perspectives to the table. As Marrawah Law has grown and diversified, I am proud that our corporate and government clients also understand the critical importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people having the right advice – and the space and support – to make informed decisions.

With our ambitious growth plans, I want to cement Marrawah Law’s position as the leading 100% Indigenous-owned law firm in Australia – recognised for strong values-based outcomes for clients and sought-after by employees as a diverse, flexible and rewarding place to work.

QLS Proctor: How can members of the legal profession further support the advancement of First Nations businesses and initiatives?

Leah: It is concerning, but not surprising, to see that the number of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander lawyers has not increased considerably since the 2020 National Profile of Solicitors data was gathered. However, it is pleasing to see the increasing numbers of female lawyers across the nation.

Diversity comes in many forms, and it’s critically important to have this data to remind us that we definitely still have work to do. Increased representation of First Nations lawyers will take time, but the signs are positive and the legal sector is to be congratulated on its efforts.

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As legal professionals it is important to support others, particularly emerging practitioners; role model the work you do and share your experiences. The profession can assist in improving the diversity of our profession from the earliest of stages. We can be offering First Nations’ university students work placements or cadetships, looking to employ graduates and then champion the good work that they do in a range of areas.

Read more on Indigenous Business Month (1-31 October) and the work being done by Marrawah Law.

Indigenous Business Month

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