Law firms unite to launch scholarship for First Nation law students

The scholarship is open to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in WA

Law firms unite to launch scholarship for First Nation law students

A group of commercial law firms have collaborated to launch a scholarship aimed at First Nation students looking to pursue law degrees in Western Australia.

The Bilya Boorn Scholarship was established by Allens, Clayton Utz, Clifford Chance, Herbert Smith Freehills, MinterEllison, Steinepreis Paganin and Thomson Geer to increase the presence and participation of First Nations individuals in the legal profession in the legal profession.

The scholarship offers its recipients up to $20,000 in financial assistance for at least two years. In addition, it provides opportunities for professional growth and mentorship during and after the scholarship period.

Eligibility for the scholarship extends to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students who are either currently enrolled or planning to enrol in an undergraduate or postgraduate law degree at any Western Australian university. Applicants will be evaluated based on various criteria, including financial need, academic performance, community involvement, and other notable achievements.

In a joint statement, the participating firms said their initiative not only aims to support the educational aspirations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students but also to honour the rich cultural heritage and practices of First Nations people.

They explained that the scholarship’s name was derived from the Wadjuk Nyungar language, where ‘Bilya’ means the river and ‘Boorn’ means the trees.

“The learning and decision making on Wadjuk Nyungar Boodja back in the old ways before and after settlement, was done on the river and with the trees and vegetation as its surrounds,” the firms said in their statement. “There was a very strong emphasis on Law/Lore being followed and when people spoke, one person had a talking stick which was then passed on to the next person to have their say. Any conflicts or misunderstandings were done in the setting of the Bilya Boorn.”

The firms also acknowledged that the idea for the scholarship came from the collaborative efforts of Nyungar Elder Dr. Richard Walley, the University of Notre Dame Australia, and the University of Western Australia.

“The launch of the Bilya Boorn Scholarship highlights the firms' commitment to the promotion of increased representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in commercial legal practice in Western Australia for the betterment of the wider legal community,” their statement read. “It reflects the principles of reconciliation and social justice and the fostering of a culture of inclusion and respect within the law firms involved.”

The first recipient of the Bilya Boorn Scholarship is slated to be announced in early April 2024. Those seeking further information on the scholarship can reach out via [email protected].  

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