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Adopt a Lawyer Program: Lander & Roger

In April 2013, Arts Law launched its pro bono lawyer program, “Adopt a lawyer”, which pairs an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community with a law firm for a three year partnership. Lander & Rogers and Warmun Art Centre were partnered together at the beginning of 2014. The Adopt a lawyer program aims to strengthen the existing Artists in the Black support of Indigenous art centres by facilitating a relationship between an arts centre and an individual law firm.

Warmun Art Centre is located two hours south of Kununurra in a community of approximately 400 people.  The Art Centre is owned and governed by Gija people with 100% of income returning to the community. It is the cultural and artistic hub of the Warmun community in the East Kimberley. In June this year, four lawyers from Lander & Rogers, along with Arts Law Solicitor’s visited Warmun Art Centre for one week with the goal of establishing good foundations for our future working relationship.

Lander and Rogers reflect;

From the moment we arrived, the artists and staff warmly welcomed us and this was formalised through a traditional welcoming ceremony. Throughout our visit, the artists enthusiastically shared their knowledge, humour and great affection for life with us.  They spoke passionately about the past and of their concerns for the future of their culture and community. We were taken on a journey through Gija language, ochre painting, song, dance and dreaming stories.  We were also privileged to be taken on country, watch a joonba, camp under the stars and go fishing and crocodile hunting with some of the Warmun kids.  Additionally, we witnessed the busy and unpredictable working life at the Art Centre.

Our participation in the Arts Law Centre program has been extremely positive.  We have valued the assistance provided by the Arts Law Centre in the early stages of our partnering with the Art Centre, and throughout the secondment.  Our visit, visits by Artists to our offices in Melbourne and our subsequent secondment has allowed our firm to deepen our understanding of not only the Art Centre, but of Gija people and community.  Our connection with the artists and the staff allows us to provide meaningful advice and solutions in a down-to-earth and culturally sensitive manner.

During our visit we observed how limited resources made it difficult for Art Centre staff to review their internal workings, identify potential legal issues and provide our firm with instructions.  Following discussion among the visiting lawyers, our one-week visit led to an exciting secondment opportunity for one of the group, Jess Easton. Jess arranged to spend ten weeks in Warmun working on a legal needs review for the Art Centre.

Jess reports -

"I arrived in August for a ten-week secondment at the Art Centre, which included living in the community.  I spent the first week adjusting to my new settings and reconnecting with and introducing myself to the board, artists, staff and community.  From there my work agenda quickly developed from a series of one-on-one and group discussions with the board, staff and artists.

Our firm has assisted the Art Centre with workplace relations issues, deeds, governance issues, contractual issues, Artist and Art Centre agreements and gallery consignment agreements. I also found myself assisting with the day to day running of the gallery, making many cups of tea for the elders, learning to drive a manual car so I could drive people around the community, baby kangaroo sitting and cooking damper over a fire. The experience has been a well-rounded and varied one.

In turn, I have had the privilege of meeting some remarkable people and learning an enormous amount on both a personal and professional level.  The elders are exceptional characters who have taught me humility, patience, forgiveness on an unprecedented level.  The older women in particular exude love for one another and for those they so openly welcome into their community.

Personally, this has been a huge educational experience from both a cultural and historical perspective.  It has been an incredibly humbling experience to say the least."

One of the most rewarding aspects for our firm has been the interest the relationship has created in Aboriginal culture more generally.  It has enriched our firm and our people through the sharing of knowledge, history and culture.

As a firm we are proud of the beginnings of our new relationship with the Warmun Art Centre, and we are equally excited for how this relationship will continue to develop and strengthen into the future.

Through this program, the art centre can contact their adopted law firm directly for advice on issues and lawyers will develop a more detailed understanding of the arts centre’s operations, with the art centre receiving relevant, commercial and timely advice. 

Read more about the Adopt a Lawyer program.