Rates of family and domestic violence remain appallingly high in Australia. Indigenous Australians are even more at risk than the general population – a consequence of the lasting intergenerational effects of colonisation and increased financial difficulties – with two in three Indigenous women and one in three Indigenous men having experienced it.
Based in the Broome office of Aboriginal Family Law Services (AFLS), 2018 Curtin law graduate Sita Samtani is playing an active role providing culturally tailored legal support to Indigenous Australians who have suffered from family and domestic violence.
Since moving to Broome in July, the paralegal spends her days driving her clients to court or to the office, filing case documents, educating Indigenous Australians living in nearby communities about legal issues or otherwise assisting lawyers with their cases.
She has even made a court appearance.
“I’ve always been interested in the community legal sector and human rights,” Samtani reveals.
“Working regionally and in the community space, I’m asked to do a lot more than I would in a metropolitan-based corporate firm because we have fewer resources. For example, I would never have had the opportunity to go to court so early on in my career if I would have worked in a corporate firm.”
The 21-year-old doesn’t just assist the AFLS with family and domestic violence cases. She also assists with child protection matters and criminal injuries compensation claims.
“I am grateful to be helping others, developing my legal skills and growing so much as a person up here in Broome,” Samtani says.
How Curtin prepared Samtani for a career in law
In November, Samtani will be admitted as a practising lawyer, allowing her to give legal advice to her clients and represent them in court.
She credits her Bachelor of Laws degree for fast-tracking her career and equipping her with the skills required to assist clients.
“I’m going to be admitted as a lawyer while I’m 21-years-old. You can’t do that at any other WA university because Curtin is the only one that offers a three-year law degree with trimester study,” she says.
“If I had attended any other WA university it would have taken me four or six years.
“The added benefit of participating in the John Curtin Law Clinic and having contact with actual clients who were small business owners really enhanced my studies.”
“Regional communities are under-resourced in terms of legal services. Young lawyers working in such locations can make an immediate contribution to improving community access to legal advice, education and awareness,” Professor Fairall says.
“It also means that, from the beginning, graduates really are operating at the coalface of their work. Curtin Law School aims to ensure that our students are equipped to do that.”
Name: Sita Samtani
Studied: Bachelor of Laws