We are very grateful to Danielle Hobday, who leaves us this week after 12 months at PIAC as part of a joint PIAC/ Australian Government Solicitor initiative to support up-and-coming Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander early-career lawyers. Through this program, which started last year, PIAC provides mentoring and support for junior lawyers or graduates with an interest in social justice, as they work on matters in our strategic litigation practice, Homeless Persons’ Legal Service and Indigenous Justice Project.
Before she left, Danielle told us about what led her to PIAC and where she hopes to go from here.
Can you tell us about your background?
I am a Wiradjuri/Gomeroi woman, although I was born and raised on the Central Coast, (Darkinjung country), where I still live with my husband and two young children. I studied a Bachelor of Law/Criminology & Criminal Justice at the University and was admitted as a solicitor in 2017.
Before coming to PIAC I worked as a Legal Assistant at the Australian Government Solicitor, completed a cadetship with the Australian Federal Police, worked as a Youth Officer in Juvenile Justice and as a Paralegal at the Public Defenders NSW.
Why did you choose to study Law?
My original goal was to join the NSW Police Force because I wanted to be a link for my community, and to bridge the division of understanding. I also wanted to help reverse the appalling over-representation of Indigenous people in the criminal justice system.
I never thought that studying Law was achievable for me, but my father encouraged me to have a go.
In the end, with the support of the UNSW Indigenous Unit, Nura Gili, I chose to study law rather than join the police because I came to realise that changing the relationship between the police and Aboriginal communities would be extremely challenging from the inside, and that a Law degree was the most powerful tool I could use to keep people accountable and pursue policy change.
Why did you apply for the position at PIAC?
I was drawn to PIAC by its strong emphasis on working with Aboriginal communities and people – particularly through the Indigenous Justice Program and strategic litigation in relation to police powers and discrimination.
I felt that the role was an opportunity for me to combine all of my previous experience with my vision to see better relationships between NSW Police and Aboriginal communities and people and achieve systematic change.
What did you like about working here?
As a new and junior solicitor it is extremely daunting, as you are unsure about what to do and how to do it. But everyone was very welcoming and very supportive, and I felt comfortable from my very first day. There was never a time that I felt I couldn’t ask a question.
I was surrounded by so many smart senior lawyers who inspired me every day, and always had time for me.
I got to work closely with Aboriginal people, communities and stakeholders on a variety of different legal issues and was given many more opportunities than just practicing as a lawyer, this included being exposed to many boards and committees.
What advice would you give young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are interested in the law?
Don’t ever doubt yourself or your ability, or allow barriers to determine your success.
If you want to have an impact on decision-making and change the system, studying law is the way to go. It will offer an array of opportunities, and is a tool to hold positions of power to account and achieve systematic change, especially for Aboriginal people and communities.