A personal reflection on being an Indigenous law academic

Document Type


Publication details

Kelly, L 2005, 'A personal reflection on being an Indigenous law academic', Indigenous Law Bulletin, vol. 6, no. 8, pp. 19-25.

Peer Reviewed



In 1998, I was appointed to a tenured position as an Associate Lecturer in the School of Law and Justice at Southern Cross University (‘SCU’), under the Indigenous Employment Strategy. In 1997 – prior to my appointment – I taught at SCU’s College of Indigenous Australian Peoples (‘CIAP’) as a casual lecturer. At CIAP I was fortunate to be the founding teacher of a subject called Dispute Resolution and Aboriginal Communities (an area directly linked to my doctoral thesis). I continue to teach this subject at CIAP thanks to the cooperation of the Law School and CIAP. At the Law School I teach mediation, dispute resolution, restorative justice and welfare law. You may be wondering ‘why doesn’t she teach a subject on Indigenous legal issues?’ The reason for this is explained a little further on. I am, at this moment, putting the finishing touches to a textbook.[1] Needless to say, I’m quite fed-up with legal jargon and academic speak. Story-telling is a huge part of my traditional culture so I’ll take this opportunity to tell a bit of my story as a legal academic – even though writing ‘in the narrative’ is not so acceptable in legal scholarship.[2] I’m choosing to speak from my heart – ‘to inject narrative, perspective, and feeling.’[3] This means that I (generally) won’t seek references to support my claims. I agree with many of the issues raised in this special edition: Indigenous academics continue to be under-represented at law schools and Indigenous perspectives are often excluded from core subjects and marginalised in elective units. I will take this argument further: it is not sufficient just to include Indigenous legal issues in the curriculum of core and elective subjects; nor is it sufficient to appoint Indigenous lecturers to law schools. Indigenous law academics need to have opportunities available to teach and publish in areas where we have unique and valuable perspectives. This is not about giving us something. It is about recognising expertise.

Find in your library