Celebrating 100 Indigenous law graduates
UNSW Law is thrilled to now have 108 Indigenous alumni who have completed their studies with the faculty, starting with Australia’s very first Indigenous law graduate, Dr Pat O’Shane, who completed her degree in 1976.
Among our first 100 graduates are many trailblazers in the Indigenous legal space including four judges, with no doubt more to come.
“This milestone is powerful not just because of the numbers, but because of the extraordinary achievements of these graduates,” says Scientia Professor George Williams AO, Dean, UNSW Law. “Our Indigenous alumni represent some of the most talented and high achieving students ever to graduate from UNSW Law. We are proud that they chose to study with us, and that they continue to inspire further generations of Indigenous students.”
UNSW first introduced special entry for Aboriginal students as early as 1971 and, due to UNSW’s reputation for supporting Indigenous students, in 1973 Alice Brooks Gange generously bequeathed her estate to the University to help fund the education of Aboriginal students. This bequest has enabled many Indigenous students to receive greater financial assistance during their studies and included the establishment of an Aboriginal Student Centre in 1985.
Since then, UNSW has continued to partner with many generous donors to develop and refine a number of Indigenous programs to support and encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People undertaking a university degree. Today we are proud to have one of the highest retention rates of Indigenous students in Australia, almost equal to that of our non-Indigenous undergraduate student cohort.
“This milestone would not have been possible without the support of our alumni and donor communities,” says Professor Williams. “These groups have been central to our success. Their support has bridged the gap between what government funding can provide, and what is needed for our Indigenous students to excel.”
Professor Williams says it is important to learn from this achievement by accelerating our efforts to enable Indigenous students to gain a legal education at the same rate as non- Indigenous Australians. “Lawyers are often powerful people within our community and it is vital that the ranks of lawyers are open to the people of our First Nations,” he says.
01. Indigenous students at UNSW (image: Nura Gili)