Category Archives: Uncategorized

Young Black and Deadly

YBD week 1 c

Pauline Clague with interns Kerrod, Maddison and Georgia  working on prep for the music video shoot with this years Young Black and Deadly winners at Koori Radio

On Saturday 9th of June, the team worked with the Young Black and Deadly winners for 2018 at Koori Radio for a music video clip planning day.

Associate Professor Pauline Clague and Mel Pesa have recruited interns Maddison and Georgia Coles and Kerrod Meredith-Creed who are all studying at Australian Film Television and Radio School, to assist the young aspirational singers to do the music clip for there upcoming album release.

Jumbunna will be working with the interns over the next month to help to deliver for Gadigal Information Services, a cut of the music clip for their to be released album and orginal group song “Don’t Kill The Vibe”

All members of the team were enthusiastic and engaged in trying to dream up possibilities for their clip. Kerry Johnson the co-ordinator for Gadigal has allowed Jumbunna to bring on a Young, Black deadly crew of our own, to support their emerging talent.

Next weekend we will be shooting a deadly film clip  and hope to share the vibe right across the country in a few months time.

Their new track is called Don’t Kill the Vibe and we can’t tell you anymore. You just have to wait for it’s release.

YBD Week 2

Kerry Johnson and Maya Johnson choreographing the dance moves with the Young Black and deadly winners at NCIE in Redfern.

Sorry For Your Loss Launch

It was a cold and rainy night but that did not stop the crowd who came to support the launch for the Sorry For Your Loss Installation at Boomalli Co-operative in Leichhardt on Wednesday the 30th of May, 2018.

This project is an installation piece made up of communal artwork and visual and audio performances set within a cell block. The piece tells the true story of the lives of the women who have died while in custody, pushing back against mainstream narratives.

It was amazing to see the build of the cell and all the elements come together over 3 days.

Click on the link to watch: Sorry For Your Loss Time-lapse


Distinguished Professor Larissa Behrendt and Associate Professor Pauline Clague

Both key creatives Associate Professor Pauline Clague and Distinguished Professor Larissa Behrendt were overwhelmed by the support from all that attended. They voice their feelings about the project.

Distinguished Professor Larissa Behrendt

“This has been really amazing and really overwhelming. I have been going to Boomalli since it opened so it seems surreal to have something actually here but I guess also seeing all of the elements come together finally getting into the space, I had a bit of a walk through before the crowds got here and just feeling the power of the sadness and the tragedy  but also the power of the healing and the rebuilding and the nurturing. It has been really amazing and great to have so many people turn up. It is actually really nice to celebrate Pauline’s vision around the project as well because she conceived it, she drove it and she brought everyone together and it has been fabulous to celebrate that”.

Associate Professor Pauline Clague

“I can’t separate myself as an Aboriginal woman, away from the story. I feel like I am walking with those women every day. There is something like 112 books that was part of the recommendations that was done back in the early 90s and each one of those books represents a life. We wanted to make sure that we honour them, not just as a book that sits on the shelf and gathers dust. We wanted to give them a life and a story that allowed people to not just feel them but be nurtured and comforted by the cultural elements that are around the possum cloak and the weaving and the other elements as well. We hope that we have done the family’s proud tonight”.

DSC_4179The evening was hosted by Koori Radios Blakchat’s presenter Lola Forester. The night was opened with the Welcome to Country and deeply heartfelt words by Donna Ingram. Donna had participated in the possum cloak making week and shared her warmth and support to the project.

The energy in the space was hugely compelling and there were many embraces and tears. The sounds of the cell block filled the air while people moved through the space to walk with the many Aboriginal women who have died in custody.

Conversations from the crowd strengthened the space at Boomalli and I think everyone would agree that this installation wholeheartedly pays tribute to that work and what the families are going through and how much silence around these issues.

The strong impact of this launch was shared by Lola the following morning on Koori Radio with Pauline Clague to share the event and hope that everyone who missed out can come’s along to experience this tribute before the closing of the installation on the 24th of June.


Black Chicks and Cocktails

Let’s Dance

Distinguished Professor Larissa Berendht, Professor Nareen Young and Associate Professor Pauline Clague took the stage in red shoes discussing the times and the effect of David Bowie’s 1983 hit “Let’s Dance”. 
Joined by the women was the cocktail mixologist and designer Emeritus Professor Michael Lavarch.
The theatre was a packed audience who were transported back to the 1980’s in a fun filled lecture/discussion about the times, with a few cocktails and a dance session thrown in at the end of the discussion.
During Black Chics and Cocktails they discussed representations of Aboriginal people in popular culture by overseas artists, the factors that drove Bowie to be vocal during that time, the life of growing up with the spotlight on our people through music and the political impact of the arts in this country, all while sipping on master mixologist Michael’s creation “Michael’s Golden Years”
 Screen Shot 2018-05-31 at 3.03.01 pm
The Team shared the cocktails with the audience and a little cocktail card of the recipe. At the end of the night they played out and got the audience up from their seats to dance to “Let’s Dance”.
The team at Jumbunna ended the night with a bang, bringing the packed house to their feet as the classic dance number reverberated through the halls of the MCA, it was a fun and engaging night that created a great atmosphere that we hope would have made Bowie proud.

Launch and Panel for Reconciliation Week

Jumbunna Research Team as a part of Reconciliation week, is helping to shed light on the growing issue of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders incarceration and Death in Custody levels increasing.

On Wednesday the unit will launch the exhibition “Sorry For Your Loss” at Boomalli Gallery, a collaborative community driven multi sensory installation work.

On Thursday a panel will happen at the Metcalfe Auditorium at the NSW State Library.































The exhibition will continue until the 10th of June 2018.

To reserve tickets for the panel the details are below.

The exhibition is a cell block that once you enter into it, there are elements that help to create a full story of the issues and differing artworks.

Audio Visual piece – is giving the ownership of these women back from being a statistic and placing voice on the stories of our women.

The Possum Cloak was made by the Jumbunna crew and community coming together to tell a story. The 48 panel represent the women we have lost since 1987.

The work that Jumbunna Research has done in reports and coronial support and the like informed the artwork and the reimagining of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal  Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC). It is important that these papers and recommendations don’t just sit on a shelf and gain dust, we have to find solutions and outcomes. The work has been done to work through recommendations, we need to have some action around these Commissions that are done on our communities.

The report was repurposed into artwork around the cell block. We hope people will take time to reflect on the volumes and hours of work our community gave to these reports and the recommendations are still as valid today as they were over 25 years ago.

We hope this exhibition will trigger conversation, and with that in mind the panel on the 31st will be facilitated by Distinguished Professor Larissa Behrendt, one of the creatives behind Sorry For Your Loss.

On the Panel:

– Professor Chris Cunneen one of the leading criminologists specialising in Indigenous people and the law, juvenile justice, restorative justice, policing, prison issues and human rights.

– Dr Amanda Porter  a senior researcher at Jumbunna with a focus on politics of policing and police reform since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

-George Newhouse, a Human Rights Lawyer who is the principal solicitor of the National Justice Project.

-Craig Longman, Head of Legal Strategies at Jumbunna who runs a teaching clinic supporting ATSI clients and communities in the development and implementation of legal strategies, working with organisations like National Justice Project, Legal Aid to advocate for the community. He is also a barrister.

We hope to utilise this work around the community over the next year.  Lets remove our mob from being statistical data and give them a voice.



Litigation for the Community

The Jumbunna Litigation Research Unit is dedicated to the conduct of research and advocacy at the intersection of Aboriginal communities and the Australian Legal Framework.

Working at the intersection of research, policy and litigation, the Unit uses Research to identify areas in the Australian legal system that both deny justice to Aboriginal communities, and in which change may be achievable.

Once identified, the Unit works with stakeholders to attempt to support and effect change. Working in collaboration with the Research and New Media arms of Jumbunna Research, the Litigation Research Unit has worked with an integrative approach on behalf of the Bowraville and Muckaty communities on major projects seeking to promote the interests of Aboriginal communities.


Jumbunna with Garyaward jumbunna human rights


Transcript of Podcast with Craig Longman

My name is Craig Longman, I’m the head of legal strategies here at Jumbunna Research Unit.

I came to Jumbunna originally through relationship with its director professor larissa behrendt. We worked together on a case down in Narouma involving a number of young aboriginal men who had been interviewed by police and a time of night where they new that there obligation to notify the aboriginal legal service would be ineffective.SO effectively they would send a fax after hours and they new that no solicitor would show up.and they would get to interview these young aboriginal men with no representatives present.So we took that case and really it was through working on that case and working with Jumbunna staff when we where working on the watten defence up on palm island that we started identifying that there is some scope here for some research and some thinking around what kind of litigation and what kind of legal tactics are really effective both at holding the state accountable and also at trying to foster and really assist with the self determination that indigenous nations are executing and that indigenous nations are effecting all over the country on a day to day basis. The large part of coming to Jumbunna was really the ability and the opportunity to work with Larissa, the work that we do and the strategic litigation arena, the work we have done, particularly on cases like Bowraville, has really been driven and guided by a vision that she and I share. and has really been guided by a vision that she shares with all the staff here at Jumbunna about the importance of research that has an impact on the ground and the importance on acting both on your moral conviction but also from a place from respect and allegiance with community.

So the work that we did in Bowraville, and throughout this recording I am going to talk a little bit about Bowraville and it is important to say upfront that when I say we in this context I say both for Jumbunna staff and there are a number of staff that have been and remain involved the bowraville case and other cases and also the students that work with us from the faculty and also recognise the role that the community play strongly and the leadership role that Professor Behrendt plays in the work that we do and how we do that work.


Bowraville came to us, as most cases come to us, with the community approaching Jumbunna, which is how we work. We wait for the community to come and ask us for assistance. That’s a very tragic case. It’s quite old now, but it’s never gone stagnant. It involved the murder of three aboriginal children in the community of Bowraville, Northern New South Wales.

From the moment the children first went missing, before they knew that they had been murdered, the community had gone to the police for assistance. You need to understand the history of a community like Bowraville, where the police … Certainly, at that time, there was a lot of racism in the police force. And not even explicit racism necessarily, where they saw what they were doing, but racism where they just assumed things about aboriginal people and the way that they would act.

So, they let these ideas color how they investigated what was, at the end of the day, a serial murderer out there killing children. That initial investigation was really problematic. A lot of evidence was missed and a lot of connections were missed in the killings that would have changed the way those deaths had been seen. Initially, they were seen as three separate missing persons. And then, it was only when some of the children’s bodies started being found that they realized that it was a serial killing. They initially had child protection police officers involved instead of homicide police officers, for instance.

The community went to the police on numerous occasions and said, “We’re worried about our kids,” and they were told things like, “Well, maybe your child’s gone walkabout,” which is a terrible thing to say to the mother of a four year old child who’s gone missing. The initial police investigation happened. The police had a suspect in those killings, and that person was tried in relation to one killing. The law at the time in New South Wales made it a very difficult task to bring multiple charges on one trial, so one trial was brought. There was an attempt to bring two of the murders in the first trial, and the judge said no.

Then, a second trial was tried later on in 2004, and the judge excluded any evidence of the other two killings. You had a situation where families were sitting in the court, and they’re hearing what is supposed to be, in the minds of any normal citizen in New South Wales, the story of what happened, that goes to the jury and then the jury decides if anyone’s guilty of anything. They listened to this story and the questions obviously rise up and did is, why are they only talking about one child when three have disappeared?

One of the striking things about that case was the community, and the community’s relentless pursuit of justice. Probably, the central message that’s always come from the community in this case is, you, the state, have failed us and you owe it to us to make it good. It’s not enough to just say, “Yeah, we failed.” This person is still out there; this person who took our kids, and it’s your job to find them.

The community kept that struggle up for a long time, and when they came and saw us, a number of things had happened. One of the things that they’d done, which is extraordinary by any measure, was they’d convinced the New South Wales parliament to amend the principle of double jeopardy, which is a principle that says once you’ve been acquitted of something, then you can’t be tried for it again. So, they changed the law. But when they changed the law, they weren’t very clear about exactly what kind of cases would fall within it. So, they’d been to two separate attorney generals by that time to ask the attorney generals to retry this individual on all three murders. Both times, they’d been told no.

The police, after the initial investigation, had conducted a reinvestigation led by Detective Inspector Gary Jubelin, who’s now an Inspector. That reinvestigation was an entirely different thing. Rather than try and conduct it in the way that they would in a non-aboriginal community for instance, the first thing those officers did was went up and sat down with the community and let them know they were in it for the long haul, and built those relationships up, and they started getting evidence then, once the community trusted them. Because they started asking questions, rather than just making assumptions.

So, a lot of evidence came out, and that evidence has been sitting there for a long time. Now when we got involved, we really worked where the community wanted us to work. One of the concerns the community had was that the matter only ever appeared in the media or got any traction when a journalist was writing about it, which they were finding it difficult to maintain that momentum. So we put the story together as the documentary, in the documentary form, and that was predominantly about allowing the community to tell their story about what happened in Bowraville, and to talk about who these children were.

So, rather than looking at it as a case of where the police stuffed up, the documentary was about understanding what the impact on that community was, and one of the lessons that was really clearly learned in Bowraville is, you need to understand what motivates the humanity of a person if you want them to change or if you want them to do something. It’s all well and good to appeal to concepts of justice, or things that are right or wrong, but that doesn’t mean a great deal to someone on the human level. So, once those stories of the children were told, and the stories of the community were told, there was a renewed interest in the New South Wales parliament to reinvestigate the matter. They conducted an inquiry, which also generated a lot of really consolidated evidence that was already there, but also consolidated the story about how we’d found ourselves in a situation where the most notorious serial killings of children in Australian history is not known by anyone.

We worked with the police and we conceived some legal arguments. Now, we did all of this with the use of students, and volunteers and interns, over a number of years, and we wrote an application for the New South Wales police, and they submitted that to the previous attorney general, and that was successful. So, the matter returned before the court of criminal appeal last year and we’re not waiting for a judgment on whether or not this person will have to face their day in court and face the full story of what happened up there.

It became really clear to us, in Bowraville, but also more generally, when we looked at all the work the unit did across the different areas, everybody’s most impactful work started with story, started with what’s the story here. Because everything else, potentially our talk, it’s the ability to tell a story well, as is the ability to craft a legal argument well. They’re all well and good, but you have to understand what the story is that’s going to compel change.

The other thing to say about that too is, there is power in allowing a story to be told, especially in the Australian context where, quite often, a community story of injustice is taken, changed, morphed, bashed about, and then regurgitated in a different format, like a courtroom for instance. We can often see that … Speaking as a lawyer, we see that as professionalism. We say, “Well, this is how that story is presented to the court.” But that’s very disempowering too, because it’s telling you your story is not what matters. This thing that we’ve done to it is what matters.

Bowraville is a really good example of a situation where, there were a lot of people who were willing to use Bowraville as a vehicle for whatever their skill set was. Journalists were willing to write the article, provided the story provided them with a good article. Lawyers would use it and then apply their skill set to it. But, who were the people who were going to come to that place with a perspective, first and foremost, of saying to the community, “We believe you’re right. This was a racist investigation, and nothing happens here. Where can we flow? What cracks can we open up? What levers can we pull? What buttons can we push?

Bowraville was a really interesting experience to me, because before Bowraville, I would have told you that there’s only so many sites of influence that you can have an impact on. The way we worked in Bowraville was, just to sit as an ally. Just do what was asked of us. Allow the community and the families to direct the strategy, and working with the police to direct the strategy. Not is it just a case of this case coming back into court, but we’ve changed the way law schools have to teach their students about cultural issues. We’ve changed the way the police investigate homicides. We’ve had a parliamentary inquiry into a criminal case, which has never happened in the history of New South Wales before. We’ve survived going on four attorney generals in the course of the case.

We’ve also had an impact in the judge’s book. So, when you look at the impact, we’ve impacted the students who are going to be solicitors, the police who investigate crimes, the solicitors who run the cases, the barristers who run the cases, and the judges in front of whom the cases are run, and we did it all not just without silencing the community’s voice, but because the community’s voice was the center of it. We gave up our role as assuming that we were the most profound influencers, and let the story speak for itself. Then, we were just shepherds after that.

Our work here in the clinic is really about a technical expertise that we deploy in conjunction with the research that comes out of the office. We have researchers here that I doing extraordinary work in a number of research areas for instance in nationbuilding ,work in relation to criminology working relation to cultural and resilience in all these areas what we find consistently is is a need for the understanding of the dominant Colonial legal system a critical approach to that in terms of identifying opportunities to have an impact. In the system or even dominant they can’t even be saying because they considered to be the norm. Really what we do in the clinic is work with the team here agitate to hold the state accountable to MPower and to work with the indigenous communities and really to develop professionals through the clinic both have a broader understanding of what their role leaders both as a lawyer to improve the nature of the society within which they live a citizen of Australia and a citizen of the world what obligations arise from that. Really to a large extent that’s not just about helping the community about helping people who pass through the clinic sustainable practitioners that Gonna be happy and healthy and a going to feel that the end of the day and at the end of their careers that they have contributed something to the fabric the world in which they live.





The Jumbunna Clinic

Over the last 7 years and in response to a demand from Aboriginaland Torres Strait Islander communities for expertadvice on legal issues, Jumbunna Institute of Indigenous Education and Research (Research Unit), has established a first of a kind research-informed legal advice and support service (the Clinic).

The Clinic applies principles of strategic litigation to support self-determination for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and to provide a site for the development of culturally competent, justice-oriented and professionally skilled lawyers.




In the Clinic, UTS law students work under the supervision of Jumbunna researchers and external legal practitioners either to help prepare cases or to develop sophisticated, strategic campaigns in areas of Indigenous justice.

Since its inception Clinic staff have worked on over 130 matters including numerous high-profile matters (such as the Bowraville murders and multiple Death in Custody inquests), providing annually an average total of almost 2000 hours of support to communities.

Aurora Intern Project was established in 2006 as a result of a report into the professional development needs of lawyers at Native Title Representative Bodies. Over the years it has grown to encompass other projects in the broader area of Indigenous education and Indigenous affairs generally.

The Program places Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous legal students and graduates (including mature aged) in full-time unpaid 4 to 6 week internships, at over 140 organisations Australia-wide, all with an Indigenous focus.

CRAIG_INTERNS_WALKING Jumbunna Research has used Aurora Project in both the clinic and on Winda Film Festival. This years interns that worked in early January/February caught up with us on their last days to talk to the experience….

We caught up with Craig to talk about the clinic and its work. Attached is the podcast of him talking about the work we do.

My name is Craig Longman, I’m the head of legal strategies here at Jumbunna Research Unit, and I also run the clinic. It’s a clinic we run with students who come and work with us on cases with external lawyers and also community.
The clinic arose organically, essentially. The best way to understand what we do in terms of the clinic is that, Jumbunna is itself, an advocacy outreach project, where the people here use their expertise to agitate for change. In the course of doing that, sometimes we get tasks, predominantly they’re in legal cases, where we need people who are savvy enough to reflect on their own histories and their biases, and then technically competent enough to be able to construct a really good legal argument.

We bring those people into a room, and we put them in the room for however long it takes. So, we tap into a number of different subjects, which is a fairly typical way of operating. We work with the law and justice subject, for instance, at the UTS law faculty. We also use Aurora interns, and volunteers, and it’s really word of mouth. We tend to fill the clinic from people who know our work and want to help, or students who know people who’ve come through the clinic.

The way that students work in the clinic depends a little bit on what’s going on in Jumbunna at the time. Where we have a coronial or a particularly large case, like Bowraville on, they will work in the same way as they would work in a legal practice really, directed by the researcher to do whatever tasks need doing. I think one of the things that differentiates us is that, because we work in this space where we’re looking for creative, novel, disruptive legal arguments, when a student comes up with an idea here, it’s not dismissed as being inappropriate or as not necessarily working. Often, it’s the more curious ideas that provide us with avenues to agitate for change in terrain where there’s actually no resistance, because no one’s ever considered that this would be somewhere that indigenous nations would seek to exercise self-determination.

So that’s how the students come in. In terms of working, what we tend to do is work with external legal practitioners, or as I said, it depends on what’s happening, we might be working directly with the community. So, for instance, recently, we had a student do some research for us around cultural heritage laws. The first part of that task was summarizing those laws. Fairly traditional approach. And then we told them to go away and see if they could break the law, in the sense of, find holes in it where a community could exercise self-determination.

Again, what we’re trying to teach the students is not, what rights does the law give to a client or a community necessarily, that might be part of the equation, but treat the law like it’s a terrain. And then in the same way as a general tries to make use of features of a landscape, we look at the landscape of the law and say, “How can we use this to advance self-determination?” It encourages a really different way to think about how you go about law and how you go about change.

So, the students will traditionally work with the researchers here, floating ideas, doing research, getting feedback. We give them fairly traditional legal training in terms of the way they write, the way they think, the way they research, whether they’re being persuasive. Also, we try and engender in them an appreciation of good judgment. Often, when someone says, “That argument doesn’t feel right to me,” what they’re really trying to do say is, “That doesn’t have a narrative integrity to me. This doesn’t sound like something that someone would do.”

So we try and train them around that kind of thing too, and to understand that, again, your job is to be persuasive. Then, they might work with community members directly, depending on the work that they’re doing. It might be child protection work. They’re more likely to work with a community member directly to help them navigate that terrain.

Death and custody, they’re more likely to work directly with the researchers and the lawyers. In something like Bowraville, it’s a little bit of everything. They go where they’re needed.

Definitely one of the things I learned when I came to Jumbunna. You come through a law school or degree and you’re taught that the law is actually the repository, not only of your rights, but of your remedies. THat’s really comfortable language that we come up with. But the reality of it is that, actually, the law is the smallest part of these greater ideas of justice, which really go to how we treat each other as human beings.

The law is a tool kit, and that’s all it is. And because it’s a tool kit with a long history, and with plenty of vested interest in it, for every solicitor out there that sees their moral obligation being larger than their ethical obligations, there’s a solicitor out there who just wants to do it nine to five and actually is disinterested in those larger questions of justice, but they still get the tool kit. They can do a lot of damage with that tool kit.

So, I think that’s one of the things about the students that come to us in the first place, is often, they’re coming to us towards the end of their career, or of their degree, of they’re coming to us in their third year, and they’re already starting to feel it’s a bit rickety. They’re already being pushed away from those grander ideas of justice and what you can do as a human being into what’s your subject matter? Who are you going to work for? What’s the professional life you want? And they feel strange about that. They feel like something is being robbed from them, and something is being robbed from them, right? It’s that history of who you are and what you can do as an agent of change or a lawyer in the world.

It’s interesting. We still talk, in the legal fraternity, about justice as though it’s this generic, powerful concept that is somehow embedded in the system itself. But, in fact, every instance of justice I’ve ever seen is just one person choosing to roll up their sleeves and give what is almost always an imperfect, hard try at improving some person’s life or some person’s circumstance.

That’s a noble pursuit, and I think we’ve forgotten that in the way we teach law. A lot of students, they want that noble pursuit, more than they want to save someone or more than they want to be the person in the room. They just want to be part of something they believe in, and they want to have a career out of it at the same time. IT seems that there is a real gap in opportunities for students to be that , to be true to who u are or become a better version of who you are and a very good lawyer.

What we strive to do, and this is what we teach our students as well … We’re not here to teach them how to run a bail application. What we teach them to do is to step back from their narrow perspective on what a given situation is, right? So, this is not necessarily about a legal problem. This is about an impact that we’re after. This is about a change. This is about empowerment. By all means, once you work out where you want to go, look to legal resolutions if they’re there. But they may not be the most effective resolution. The most effective technique might be a documentary, it might be a podcast, it might be articles, it might be these things in different areas of the environment, whilst just simultaneously giving a legal argument in court.

So, understanding that, if you want to do justice and you want to do the concept of justice justice, if I can put a lot of work on that word, then you have to be effective enough, and you have to be skilled enough, and you have to be mature enough to realize that you’ve got to reach out to whatever tools are available to you. You’ve got to find what it is within you that drives this question and drives this particular case or this particular project, and then you’ve got to look to your audience, and understand that your first job is not to be right. Your first job is to be persuasive, and how do you persuade that human being, or that group of human beings, to see what you see, and to see what the community sees, and to see … Quite often, it’s about trying to make those people unsee what they’ve been taught. If you can do that, if you can learn that skill set, then now you have the capacity to make change in the world.

So, that’s very much at the heart of what we do here when we go into a particular case or a particular project. The first question we often ask ourselves is, in the entire environment of this project, whether it’s media, legal, political, financial, cultural knowledge work, whether it’s education or teaching or research, where’s the area we can have the biggest impact? But also, where’s the area that we’re uniquely qualified to have the impact?

There’s a second element to this to, which is that there is real power in … If you’re in a terrain where you want to disrupt or improve something as amorphous and oppressing as the legal system, or a media environment for instance, there’s real power to resisting characterization, to finding where the gaps are, where you can bring a bunch of energy and focus, and a mindset that says, “We refuse to accept the status quo here. We actually believe that humans are better than what they’re doing in this particular instance, and let’s show you how it could look.”

Often, it’s not just a resourcing issue. Often, there’s ethical obligations on, for instance, journalists or solicitors or barristers, where they’re instructed by their 0client where they can’t then turn around and try and make it about an improved justice system. So, it might be that, in a particular case, that’s exactly the job that we can do. We can tell a story about how the system has let the client down, without running the risk that the coroner or the judge or the police officer, is going to hold it against the client.

I think, for me, recently, we’ve hit this curious equilibrium between getting the right kind of student in, teaching them enough to be reflective, and agile, and effective, but also creating a culture where their ego takes a back seat. So, the end result is the story that floats out of the work.

I think we’re still working out exactly how to phrase what’s so profound about that experience, but the impact follows. This is something we’ve noticed. I think, arguably, the first time in my life, I would say, 98 percent of the work that I do, I think, has a direct impact on justice in Australia.

I think, often, the work itself and the tragedy of the work and the difficulty of the work is the fertilizer. It should make you angry. I think the great tragedy is if you can do work like this and feel nothing. I think that’s a far greater tragedy. We also have some really practical techniques around it. So, one of the things that we’re really clear about in the clinic is that you’re not ashamed of emotion. If you’re upset by a case, be upset. And if it’s too much, you take a break. If you want to do some different work, you do some different work. We’ve got counselors at the university who can help students through this.

But look, I also think it’s got to be said … We hear this a lot, what about students who work on these difficult cases? These students want to work in this world, that’s the first thing I would say, and this is what the world looks like. I also think that people underestimate students. The students that we’ve had working with us, we’ve had a few become part of the profession now, and we’ve got a few more that are on the path and will get admitted, and I’m honored to have worked with every one of them, and they’re better lawyers because they don’t turn away from these things. They recognize, this is the world in which I live, and what am I going to do about it?


Sorry for Your Loss Project

           Telling the untold story of Aboriginal women deaths in custody through art

Pauline and Lou

Dr Lou Bennett and Assoc Professor Pauline Clague

Four Indigenous creatives and academics, Professor Larissa Behrendt, Assoc Professor Pauline Clague, Dr Lou Bennett, and Dr Romaine Moreton, have worked with community to re-voice the stories of Aboriginal women who have died in custody.

Titled, ‘Sorry For Your Loss’, the project is an installation piece made up of communal artwork and visual and audio performances set within a cell block. The piece tells the true story of the lives of the women who have died while in custody, pushing back against mainstream narratives.

“The hope is that the installation piece will visit communities and create dialogue around the ever growing numbers of our women being incarcerated in the jail system,” says Prof. Behrendt.

The project has been driven by Jumbunna Research at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS).

“We wanted people to experience an immersion of the lives of the women, an installation meant we could work with a few people supporting each other through such loss, trauma and grief. For us it has also been wonderful to be supported by the community coming together to do the cultural components for the exhibition,” explains Assoc Professor Clague.

The project has also involved the making of a traditional possum skin cloak that represents the Aboriginal women who have died while in police custody since 1987, the year the Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody was announced by the Hawke Government. Aboriginal women from across Sydney were involved in the creation of the cloak.

“We hope this installation will allow us to heal and continue the work each day in a powerful way, honoring these women,” says Ms. Clague.

The recommendations of the Royal Commission were handed down in 1991, yet many of them are yet to be implemented. The imprisonment rate for Indigenous females increased by 58.6% between 2000-2010 as noted by the Law Council of Australia.

The installation will be officially launched on the 30th May, during Reconciliation Week with the exhibition open to the public from the 31st May – 10th June at Boomalli Co-operative, 55-59 Flood Street, Leichardt in Sydney. There will also be a panel on the 31st May focusing on the issue of escalating numbers of Aboriginal women in custody.


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