Indigenous lawyer a champion for the vulnerable and disadvantaged

An Indigenous law graduate of The University of Western Australia has been appointed as the new Indigenous Peoples' Rights Manager at Amnesty International.

Indigenous rights activist Tammy Solonec's role will be to tackle daunting levels of juvenile incarceration.

Ms Solonec, also a director of the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples and Executive Assistant of NAIDOC in Perth, said reducing both injustice and the incarceration rate would be her focus.

She said growing up in regional and remote WA including seeing a racially motivated riot in Mullewa when she was eight years old opened her eyes to the injustices suffered by Indigenous people.

A Nigena woman from Derby, Ms Solonec grew up in the northwest of WA before settling in Perth at 16.  After finishing her TEE she entered UWA's inaugural Aboriginal Pre-Law Program before completing her Bachelor of Laws.

"As a young Aboriginal girl up north, I knew people weren't likely to listen to me, but I figured that with a law degree - that bit of paper - they might," she said.

While studying, she had a cadetship with Dwyer Durack Lawyers and worked on a High Court appeal for Martin v State Housing Commission.  Her paper on discrimination against Aboriginal people in the private rental market won the Women's Justices Prize in 2000 and was published in the Indigenous Law Bulletin.

As a Solicitor at the Aboriginal Legal Service of WA in 2008, she worked on the Ward Inquest, which examined the tragic and avoidable death of respected Ngaanyatjarra Elder and Leader, Mr Ward, and went on to become the Managing Solicitor of the Law and Advocacy Unit.

These cases made her even more determined to use her growing networks, skills, knowledge and experience to influence positive social change for all vulnerable and disadvantaged people.

Ms Solonec's mother, Cindy Solonec, who strongly encouraged her children to undertake tertiary education, was 36 when she began studying at university and is now completing her PhD in Aboriginal History at UWA.