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NT Law graduate receives national award

By Leanne Coleman

David Woodroffe has won the national 2013 Indigenous Professional of the Year Award David Woodroffe has won the national 2013 Indigenous Professional of the Year Award

A Charles Darwin University graduate has won the national 2013 Indigenous Professional of the Year Award from the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department.

The North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) managing solicitor of crime, David Woodroffe, graduated with a Bachelor of Law in 1998 and has been working in Indigenous legal aid in the Territory for almost 15 years.

Being Indigenous, Mr Woodroffe said he had the advantage of understanding both multi-layered traditional Aboriginal cultural knowledge and the Australian mainstream legal system.

“I have a lot of pride in promoting an understanding and respect between mainstream law and Indigenous communities,” Mr Woodroffe said.

“To me winning the award was not only gratifying as recognition from my peers, but it was also a reflection of the value of the work done by NAAJA and Aboriginal legal aid services in the Northern Territory.”

Mr Woodroffe said he became interested in studying law after undertaking a Tertiary Enabling Program at the university in 1993.

“The program opened myriad opportunities for me,” he said. “I became interested in law not only because it was challenging academically, but also I began to see how I could make a difference in Indigenous people’s lives including my family.”

Mr Woodroffe said the period of his involvement in Aboriginal legal aid has been an exciting time for Indigenous people around Australia with landmark cases including MABO, recognition of Native Title and the Stolen Generation.

“I am really living my dream,” he said. “I wanted to work with Indigenous people at a community level and NAAJA is the only firm in Australia that offers the opportunity to travel as extensively to remote communities. I have had the opportunity to travel to 30 of the 36 remote courts in the NT, but continue to see the same systematic issues arising in communities. It is vital that we continue to work and learn about traditional Indigenous values and how they relate to mainstream law to ensure Indigenous people have a voice in the legal system.”