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Inspiring sportsman, barrister obvious choice for oration

The Mullenjaiwakka (Lloyd McDermott) Oration will be held on 2 August. Photo contributed by Phillipa McDermott.

Zac Frazer was a first-year law student in 2015 when he heard Mullenjaiwakka (Lloyd McDermott) speak at a Bar Association of Queensland Mullenjaiwakka Trust event.

Now a lawyer at Clayton Utz and one of the Mullenjaiwakka (Lloyd McDermott) Oration organisers, he remembers it well.

“I was inspired by his story. You can only be what you can see,” Zac said.

“As the first Aboriginal barrister in Australia, it seemed right do something in his honour.”

The Mullenjaiwakka (Lloyd McDermott) Oration is being organised by the Indigenous Lawyers Association Queensland (ILAQ) on 2 August at the Banco Court.

Mullenjaiwakka, who died in 2019, was Australia’s first Indigenous barrister, and also the second Indigenous person to represent his country in rugby union, after Cec Ramalli, in 1962.

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Oration co-organiser and lawyer at Ashurst Australia, Wyatt Cook-Revell confirms Mullenjaiwakka was the perfect choice to name the event after.

“Mullenjaiwakka inspired many through his rugby career, the law and community service,’” Wyatt said.

“He represented his country in rugby union and achieved great success in the law. He was also a Queenslander through and through.

“While representing his country in rugby union, Mullenjaiwakka made a principled decision not to play in South Africa during apartheid. In following years, his principled stance influenced white rugby union players to refuse to play against South Africa.

“His love for providing opportunity for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people led to the establishment of the Lloyd McDermott Sports Foundation, and he has left an enduring legacy with the Mullenjaiwakka Trust which supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people towards a career at the Bar.

“We want to pay tribute to his achievements, passion for providing opportunities for others, and resilience and strength of character in the face of adversity.”

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Zac said the working group had been tossing up ideas about how to raise awareness about the current legal issues affecting First Nations peoples.

“An annual oration with an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander lawyer or figure involved in the law came up,” he said.

“We also wanted to highlight to the legal profession issues affecting Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders today and present the opportunity to hear from Aboriginal people who succeeded and hear their voices and what they have to say.’’

Wyatt said the working group was motivated by the success that Pride In Law, the national LGBTIQA+ Law Association, and others had achieved in educating the Queensland legal community.

“There was a drive to educate the Queensland legal community and seek to foster dialogue and raise awareness about the current legal issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” he said.

Tony McAvoy SC, a Wirdi man and Australia’s first Indigenous Senior Counsel, will deliver the inaugural address.


Tony McAvoy SC. Photo supplied

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In a 2020 New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council article, he is quoted as saying: “Lloyd had a level of personal integrity that often these days can be difficult to find.”

Zac said it was also an important year in the reconciliation process with the referendum on an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice in Parliament, which had been decades in the making.

“This is a watershed year to have an event with a senior Aboriginal person in the profession. These two things are tied – legal change and the speech.”

The organisers wished to thank His Honour Judge Nathan Jarro, Barrister John Fraser and Mullenjaiwakka’s family in helping make the Mullenjaiwakka (Lloyd McDermott) Oration come to fruition.

The oration will be hosted by the Honourable Chief Justice Bowskill on 2 August from 5.30pm-8pm. The cost is $25.

Register here.

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