Bawinanga Adopts-A-Lawyer

A group of Australia’s top lawyers spent last week in a remote West Arnhem Land community marking the commencement of a new pro bono relationship to provide Maningrida Arts and Culture with three years of pro bono legal services.

The deal is part of the national ‘Adopt A Lawyer’ program created and brokered by the Arts Law Centre of Australia.

Three senior lawyers from international law firms Allens and Macquarie Bank travelled from Sydney and Melbourne to get to know their new Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation clients.

Arts Law CEO and founder of the Artists in the Black program, Robyn Ayres, co-hosted the meet and greet with Maningrida Arts & Culture and Babbarra Women’s Centre and GM, Michelle Culpitt.

“This was the first time any of these senior lawyers had been to a remote community,” Ms Ayres said.

“Being able to spend an entire week in Maningrida gave them time to really understand the strength of local culture and its implications on daily life.

“It was really interesting to see the degree of disadvantage and then the quality of the artwork produced; it’s unbelievable.”

Ms Ayres said Arts Law developed the Adopt a Lawyer program four years ago to provide a sustainable, quality legal service to Aboriginal community art centres.

“Allens has about 700 lawyers and is one of Australia’s top law firms, with a huge range of expertise,” she said.

“Their Head of Pro Bono can assess the specific legal advice requested, and direct it to a lawyer who specialises in those matters. It’s a great opportunity”.

“Maningrida Arts & Culture, for example, might require guidance on an art licensing contract or an employment issue, or debt recovery, and will receive the best quality advice on that specific matter.”

The lawyers also held a wills workshop to help artists

understand the value and limitations of wills, and helped some local artists write their wills while staying in the community.

The lawyers also conducted a session on human rights at Babbarra Women’s Centre.

“We look forward to this three-year relationship with our new friends at Allens and Macquarie, which we hope will also continue on in the future. Visiting the community, receiving a cultural induction from senior staff and artists will assist our remote communications. The lawyers learnt that even a simple question such as, “what’s your name?” raises all kinds of cultural dimensions!”