The Indigenous Law Students and Lawyers Association of Victoria – Tarwirri Inc (Tarwirri) is an initiative that arose from the Aboriginal Justice Agreement in 2000. Tarwirri is an incorporated association providing assistance to current Indigenous law students and graduates. Tarwirri means Brolga / Native Companion – they are quite rare in Victoria today but highly noticeable when present. Tarwirri considers this to be an appropriate analogy for Indigenous lawyers and law students, who are also quite rare, but when you see them in action you will take notice immediately. Tarwirri’s objective is to promote the benefits of legal studies within Indigenous communities in Victoria, provide support programs to individuals seeking legal careers throughout their academic and professional lives, and raise awareness of Indigenous issues facing legal practice today. Tarwirri aims to achieve this by:
- developing and coordinating mentoring programs for Indigenous lawyers and law students
- actively assisting Indigenous law students in finding opportunities suitable to their needs, whether it be work experience, cadetships, scholarships, mentoring, articles of clerkship or employment
- liaising with organisations and bodies throughout Australia and elsewhere to further the objectives of Tarwirri for the benefit of members
- encouraging arrangements that enable Indigenous law students to attain the same graduation and work place participation rates as those attained by other students
- encouraging the improved performance of the legal profession in serving the needs of Indigenous clients, law students and lawyers through raising awareness of Indigenous issues in the broader profession and drawing on the skills and resources of the profession as a whole, and
- advancing the legal position of Indigenous Australians.
This year, our Tax Group achieved a great win for Tarwirri when it obtained tax concession charity endorsement and deductible gift recipient (DGR) endorsement for Tarwirri from the Australian Taxation Office. Tarwirri had previously received advice that it was unlikely to qualify for such endorsements and its members were ecstatic with this result that will provide Tarwirri with an important source of funding for the future. Our C&C Group also assisted Tarwirri in establishing a national peak body for Indigenous lawyers. The constitution for the peak body was presented by Justice Peter Grey at the National Indigenous Lawyers Conference in Melbourne with high commendation and is one of the first of its kind to be prepared under the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006. On gaining DGR endorsement, Tarwirri Coordinator Aislinn Martin notes, “Without the extensive pro bono assistance from your taxation team in Melbourne, Tarwirri would never have been able to obtain Deductible Gift Recipient status.”