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An Arrernte woman from Alice Springs is the first recipient of a new scholarship program established to improve pathways for First Nations people to become lawyers.

Mikeyli Hendry, a final-year student in Arts and Law at the University of Adelaide, received the inaugural First Nations Scholarship from the Australian Academy of Law (AAL) in May. She will receive $5,000 and a 12-month period of mentoring by the AAL under the scholarship.

Hendry, who is concentrating her studies on criminal law, human rights and family law, said she was grateful for the financial freedom the scholarship would afford her.

“Not only will it give me the financial freedom to concentrate fully on my studies and afford the textbooks and support I need for my final year, but it will also help me afford to get back to Alice Springs to visit my family and maintain connections with my community,” she said.

The AAL is a coalition of solicitors, academics, judges, students, and barristers from across the nation’s legal profession. Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia Susan Kiefel is the organisation’s patron, and Alan Robertson SC is the President.

Anthony McAvoy SC, Australia’s first Indigenous Senior Counsel, was part of the three-person selection panel deciding the recipient of the scholarship, alongside Southern Cross University Professor Bee Chen Goh and UTS Law Professor Larissa Behrendt AO. Each member of the panel is a Fellow of the AAL.

“I left the interviews feeling inspired and reminded that we have come a long way since I was in their position as a young student,” said McAvoy. “I am sure Mikeyli will benefit greatly from the AAL’s generosity and go on to be a fantastic advocate for her people and thereby add significantly to the justice system as a whole.”

Hendry said she was determined to practise law and would be happy to work anywhere when she graduates, but her ultimate goal would be to return to her community and use her legal skills to assist First Nations Peoples.