A 21 year-old Indigenous Law/Arts student at The University of Western Australia is one of two national winners of the Law Council of Australia's 2014 John Koowarta Reconciliation Law Scholarship.
Ms Laura Vincent, traditionally of the Maluigal/Maoilgal Clan of the Torres Strait Islands, is in her fourth year of a six-year double degree. She now lives in Mandurah and her ambition is to help ensure Aboriginal people are always treated fairly in the legal justice system.
Accepting the award in Canberra, Ms Vincent paid tribute to John Koowarta and said he inspired her to never give up her dream of becoming a lawyer and contribute to making a difference for Indigenous communities.
"I would not be where I am today without my people before me enabling change to occur to open up the opportunities that this current generation has. The opportunities of being able to study at tertiary level and make further changes for our people," Ms Vincent said.
The co-winner of the Scholarship is Awabakal woman Ms Samara Hand, who is in her final year of Arts/Law at the University of NSW.
Law Council of Australia President, Mr Michael Colbran QC, said the Scholarship, established in 1994, commemorates John Koowarta, an inspirational man who pioneered Indigenous land rights in Australia.
"The Law Council's John Koowarta Reconciliation Law Scholarship has helped 23 Indigenous law students in their pursuit of an education in the law and it was a great honour to add Ms Hand and Ms Vincent to that list.
"Both recipients embody the passion with which John Koowarta lived his life and fought for Indigenous legal rights and I congratulate them on their achievement. The Law Council is proud of what the John Koowarta Scholarship has helped its recipients achieve and we consider it an important part of promoting Indigenous involvement in the legal profession," Mr Colbran said.
Ms Vincent said she had wanted to be a lawyer since she was 15 and that Aboriginal Legal Services work-experience when she was in Year 10 at Mandurah Senior Campus made her more determined than ever to succeed. The ‘Follow the Dream' program when she was in Year Nine encouraged her to see UWA as an option, and to believe in herself.
More information about the John Koowarta Reconciliation Law Scholarship, including how to make a tax deductible contribution to the Scholarship trust fund, is available online.