Indigenisation of the Juris Doctor

About the Project

Through the Indigenisation of the Juris Doctor project, the UWA Law School is incorporating Indigenous cultures, knowledges and perspectives throughout Juris Doctor (JD) degree. The project is a joint initiative of the Law School and the School of Indigenous Studies, and is overseen by a Reference Group of legal and cultural experts.

The need to meaningfully incorporate Indigenous knowledges into tertiary curriculum has been consistently highlighted across higher education, including in the 2008 Review of Higher Education (Bradley Review); the 2012 Review of Higher Education Access and Outcomes For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples (Behrendt Report); the Universities Australia National Best Practice Framework for Indigenous Cultural Competency in Australian Universities; the Universities Australia Indigenous Strategy 2017 – 2020; and the recent Indigenous Cultural Competency for Legal Academics Program. Here at UWA, it is part of our Vision 2030 to “lead the region in a curriculum connected to Indigenous languages, culture and knowledge and to our place in the local and global community, ensuring graduates can lead culturally respectful careers.”

The importance of understanding Indigenous peoples and knowledges is also fast being embedded into Australian workplaces through Indigenous engagement strategies such as Reconciliation Action Plans (RAPs). Law firms and other law-related bodies with RAPs include DLA Piper, King & Wood Mallesons, Minter Ellison, the Law Society of Western Australia, the Family Court of Australia, the Australian Federal Police, the Federal Attorney-General’s Department and the WA Department of Justice. Indigenous engagement is an increasingly dominant feature of the private sector more generally, with the Business Council of Australia reporting in its 2016 Indigenous Engagement Survey that 90% of member companies surveyed have Indigenous engagement activities. At a global level, cultural competency is a desirable professional skill that positions our graduates to work across the intercultural contexts of the twenty-first century.  

In this context, there is an increasingly urgent need to appropriately engage law students with Indigenous knowledges and perspectives. The UWA School of Indigenous Studies and UWA Law School believe this project will have immense benefits for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous law students, and we look forward to a law degree that serves the needs of the graduates – and world – of the future.

Read more about the project in Dr Ambelin Kwaymullina's 'Teaching for the 21st Century: Indigenising the Law Curriculum at UWA'. 

Benefits to our law students

The project is expected to have numerous benefits for UWA law students, including but not limited to:

  1. Being better equipped to enter working environments which increasingly emphasise the value of cultural competency, particularly in relation to Indigenous peoples;
  2. Enhancing ‘real world’ understandings of legal consequences through engagement with the impacts of the law upon the most structurally disadvantaged peoples in Australia;
  3. Enhancing critical and comparative legal thinking skills through interactions with Indigenous legal understandings and experiences;
  4. Being better able to interact with diverse communities as legal professionals and to understand how the law impacts different peoples differently;
  5. For Indigenous students, the creation of a learning environment that engages with their realities and which gives them greater opportunity to share the valuable perspectives that they bring to the Law School.

Project Reference Group

  • Associate Professor Meredith Blake (UWA Law School)
  • Rhys Davies (Partner, DLA Piper)
  • Andrew Dhu (Indigenous Juris Doctor student)
  • Adjunct Professor Dennis Eggington (CEO, Aboriginal Legal Service WA)
  • Dr Ambelin Kwaymullina (Project Leader, UWA Law School)
  • The Hon Wayne Martin AC (former Chief Justice of Western Australia)
  • Gavin MacLean (Indigenous UWA Law Graduate)
  • Professor Jill Milroy (Pro Vice Chancellor Indigenous Education, UWA)
  • Mel Thomas (Law Coordinator, School of Indigenous Studies, UWA)
  • Dr Richard Walley OAM (Cultural Advisor)
  • Professor Irene Watson (Pro Vice Chancellor Aboriginal Leadership and Strategy, University of South Australia)
  • Law Society of WA representative
  • Indigenous Representative, Blackstone Society and Equity Vice-President, Blackstone Society (UWA Law Students' Society)