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Friday February 03, 2012

Young Indigenous lawyer ready to take on the world

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Stephanie Parkin is about to mark a huge milestone in her life - her first day of work at leading Brisbane law firm, McCullough Robertson Lawyers.

The QUT law graduate, who recently won the Queensland Law Society prize for the final-year Indigenous law student with the highest grade point average (GPA), credits a high school teacher for getting her interested in pursuing a legal career.

"I did legal studies in high school and I enjoyed it very much. I was encouraged by my teacher to think about studying law - I suppose he saw something in me that I didn't at that stage," Ms Parkin said.

"I've always seen law as a way of helping those who are less fortunate than us. It's a privilege to be able to study law and help people who are in need."

She will be exposed to several areas of legal practice in her new role with McCullough Robertson, but initially she will be working in litigation and dispute resolution.

For now, she can't wait to soak up as much experience as she can. But she has big dreams for her longer-term career, and wants to share her expertise with Indigenous communities.

"I think it's important to have more Indigenous lawyers representing our people and our interests; and for us to be in the mainstream environment as well," Ms Parkin said.

"When I first started studying law I thought criminal or family law would be the only areas where I could make a difference in the Indigenous community. But as I went through my law degree I realised I could assist in other areas like native title and cultural heritage."

As a law student, Ms Parkin took an interest in the native title claim of her people - the North Stradbroke Island-based Quandamooka people. The matter had been in the court system for well over a decade when Ms Parkin became involved in attending family meetings, to make sure Aboriginal families were updated on the progress of the claim.

She said it was "very exciting" when a determination was handed down in July last year, which recognised her people as the traditional owners of the land.

While studying a dual law/justice degree at QUT, Ms Parkin also provided guidance and support for other Indigenous law students through peer mentoring programs.

"I'd like to highlight the importance of the Oodgeroo Unit at QUT in assisting Indigenous students with their studies, with both academic and personal support. And the equity unit within the Faculty of Law is also very supportive of Indigenous students," she said.

Embarking on her career, she said she was excited to meet new people and to develop her knowledge base and skills.

"I feel as though I have been studying law for so long, and I just can't wait to get out and do it!" Ms Parkin said.

Media contact: Michaela Ryan, QUT media officer, 07 3138 4494 or michaela.ryan@qut.edu.au

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Source: Queensland University of Technology http://www.news.qut.edu.au/cgi-bin/WebObjects/News.woa/wa/goNewsPage?newsEventID=38358

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