Law student Alicia Smyth is the first recipient of a new scholarship at Griffith University that will nurture the next generation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal eagles.
The Joshua Creamer and Kara Cook Excellence in Law Award is worth $5,000 a year and includes significant mentoring and internship opportunities.
Fourth year Bachelor of Law / Bachelor of Government and International Relations student Alicia Smyth said the scholarship would help her pursue a dream of becoming a barrister.
Today, there are only two female Indigenous barristers in Queensland — an imbalance Alicia is keen to redress.
“I’ve always had a passion for human rights and the rights of minorities,” she said.
“Studying law at Griffith and winning this scholarship will help me make a difference.”
“The legal system has often been used as a tool of oppression for Indigenous people. Naturally, there’s this distrust of the legal process and system from Indigenous people and minority groups.
“Representation is so important, and I’d love to be a part of generation that helps the legal system become a tool of empowerment for Indigenous people.”
Alicia moved from her hometown of Rockhampton to study at Griffith and said the scholarship would help cover living expenses and provide a pathway into the legal profession.
“I was so inspired by the careers Joshua and Kara have carved out since graduating from Griffith, and I’m so grateful to them for giving back,” she said.
“This will help me pay rent, buy law textbooks and replace my laptop.
“The fact that it also includes mentoring and internship opportunities will be really invaluable to my future career.
“Those circles can sometimes be hard to get into, especially if you’re like not well-connected family wise, so I’m just so privileged and honored to have access to that.”
Alicia is proud of her Torres Strait Islander and Scottish ancestry and is on track to become the first in her family to graduate from university.
“My Nan grew up on Badu Island and was one of 22 children,” she said.
“Growing up, I didn’t have a strong connection to culture because our extended family is spread out across Queensland, but I’m on that journey of trying to connect and learn more.
“I think my family has definitely been affected by diminished opportunities. That is what inspires me to help my people.”
The scholarship was made possible by Griffith Law School alumni Joshua Creamer and Kara Cook, who also hail from Central Queensland.
Mr Creamer is a descendant of the Waanyi and Kalkadoon people and a high-profile barrister who specialises in human rights class actions and native title. Ms Cook is a Brisbane City Councillor and Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
Mr Creamer said the couple established the scholarship after benefiting from strong mentors and support during their time at Griffith University.
“We didn’t have lawyers or judges or barristers in the family, and both of us were the first in our families to go to university,” he said.
“For us it was really important to have a component of the scholarship which was about providing mentorship and connecting like-minded people so that they can achieve great things in their career.
“The scholarship allows us to harness the goodwill and commitment from those in the legal fraternity and show these students that there is a community and a profession behind them.”
Ms Cook said it was a natural choice to provide the scholarship through their alma mater.
“There was no other choice than Griffith – it was a natural fit,” she said.
“The reason we chose to study at Griffith was because of that social justice connection and the emphasis that was placed on that throughout our studies.
“A Griffith law degree gives you that ability to go out and make a difference in the world.”