Community Legal Centres Queensland is thrilled to introduce Mollie O’Connor to the sector, a proud, Quandamooka, saltwater woman from Minjerribah (Stradbroke Island).
Her matriarchal line has strong connections to these lands, her great-grandmother was born on the island and her grandmother was also raised there. Mollie grew up in Meanjin (Brisbane), but feels a strong home connection to the island and returns regularly for visits, celebrations and to recharge.
Mollie has beautiful memories of being on Minjerribah at the time of the native title determination on 4 July 2011, when Justice Dowsett delivered, to a packed community hall, his judgement recognising the existing rights and interests of the Quandamooka people.
She remembers it as an amazing community celebration on the Dunwich footy field and the joy, happiness and relief from that day. She speaks fondly of the difference this determination has made for her people and acknowledges that even though this is only the first step to meaningful change, it was certainly a welcomed first step.
Mollie is inspired by the strong women in her family who have paved the way for her, and instilled strong values around the importance of education and advocacy, including her mother who is close to finishing her medical degree, and her grandmother who spent her career in Aboriginal allied health.
Mollie decided to enter the law to continue the work of these women, helping First Nations peoples to uphold their cultural rights, and recognises how her practice in environmental law at Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) is an opportunity for her to advocate for her people’s connection to country, culture and the lands and seas.
Mollie was admitted in 2021. She has spent 12 months at EDO and volunteered in the sector before that. After a time in government, she was successful in securing a role at EDO, aligning her passions with her work and providing opportunity to give back to the community in a meaningful way.
Her favourite part of her role at EDO is being able to use her unique cultural knowledge and legal skills to help people to feel heard and seen and to find resolutions. She also values the freedom to help with the development of relationships between EDO and the community, and the difference this development of trust can have on client experiences.
She acknowledges the heaviness of the cultural heritage work, and how important and rewarding it is to do this work well, carefully stepping forward in a respectful and culturally inclusive way – allowing for the protection of culture and country.
She is also grateful for the support of EDO in recognising how she must walk in two worlds to fulfil her role and how she feels valued working in an organisation that is aware and responsive to the challenges that their First Nations workers experience.
Welcome to the sector Mollie. QLS supports and celebrates First Nation lawyers and the important work they do in the profession and community. Articles are welcome to firstname.lastname@example.org or Q.Proctor@qls.com.au