First Nations lawyers and law students

The New South Wales Bar Association (Bar Association) is deeply concerned about the under-representation of First Nations lawyers practising at the NSW Bar. We seek a legal profession in NSW that demonstrates equality, an absence of any discrimination and reflects the cultural and racial diversity of the general NSW community.

For over twenty years the Bar Association, through the Indigenous Barristers’ Trust The Mum Shirl Fund (Trust) and other activities, has worked to improve the educational path for First Nations law students studying at NSW universities and to assist in providing career development opportunities and career prospects for First Nations lawyers.

To achieve our primary goal of increasing the number of First Nations barristers practising at the NSW Bar, we offer support and various programs including:

  • the First Nations Mentoring Program for First Nations law students and early career lawyers;
  • the First Nations Clerkship Program;
  • the First Nations employment scheme, identifying employment opportunities for First Nations law students;
  • financial assistance from the Trust for First Nations lawyers when coming to and practising at the Bar.

First Nations Mentoring Program – Apply Now

The Bar Association’s mentoring program for First Nations lawyers and law students in NSW aims to provide support, networks, experience and practical legal knowledge through mentoring.

The scheme has two segments matching First Nations lawyers and law students to be mentored by:

  • a NSW barrister – being part of the life and work of a barrister and the role of advocacy in the justice system, and/or
  • a judge - which is a unique opportunity to provide lawyers and students with practical insights into the work of a judge, the effective administration of a judge’s chambers, and more generally the work of courts and judges.

You may choose to be mentored by a barrister or a judge and may participate in the program more than once.

If you are interested in being mentored as part of the program you can apply here at any time.

If you are interested in participating in the mentoring program as a mentor you can apply here.

If you have any questions, please email the contact persons for the mentoring program at firstnationsmentoring@nswbar.asn.au.

First Nations Clerkship Program 2024 - APPLY NOW- Applications close 24 April 2024 at 5pm

The New South Wales Bar Association is pleased to offer up to three Clerkships to First Nations law students during the mid-year university break in June-July 2024. The Clerkships will be offered as scholarships. 

Over three weeks, clerks will complete rotations with judicial officers and a barrister, including at the Federal Court of Australia, the Supreme Court of NSW, the Land and Environment Court of NSW, the District Court of NSW and a barrister's chambers. The Clerkship is a unique opportunity for First Nations law students to learn about the inner workings of the justice system, the Courts and the Bar.

For more information about the Clerkship Program and to apply, please see the application form here

First Nations Employment Scheme

The employment scheme aims to identify part-time employment opportunities with a barrister, group of barristers or in chambers for First Nations law students including:

  • For first, second- and third-year law students and first year Juris Doctor students – doing general administrative work, filing loose leaf services, etc.
  • For fourth year law students, second year Juris Doctor students and beyond – doing research and general administrative work.

If you are interested in employment opportunities please email IBT@nswbar.asn.au.

Financial Assistance

The Trust makes available funding for:

  • providing financial support and practice development opportunities for First Nations lawyers studying for and sitting the NSW Bar exam, attending the NSW Bar Readers program and during the first five years of practice at the NSW Bar, and
  • meeting immediate living expenses of First Nations students undertaking legal or related education, for whom becoming a barrister in NSW is a primary career objective.

The range of support available is outlined here. An application form for financial assistance is available here.

About the Indigenous Barristers' Trust The Mum Shirl Fund

A special trust fund was established in 2001 to which members of the Bar Association make generous donations so it can meet the needs of First Nations law students, graduates and barristers. The Trust is dedicated to providing relief from poverty, suffering, helplessness, misfortune or other disability of First Nations law students and lawyers for whom such disadvantages, which involve financial necessity, impede the pursuit of a career as a barrister in NSW.

Donations to the Indigenous Barristers' Trust The Mum Shirl Fund

The Bar Association encourages you to donate to the Trust, which has received endorsement from the Australian Taxation Office as a deductible gift recipient. Contributions of $2 or more are allowable deductions for income tax purposes.