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A new resource for solicitors working with Indigenous clients, produced by the Law Society of NSW, will help with effective and culturally safe communication.

The comprehensive guide, prepared by the Society’s Indigenous Issues Committee, includes details on common factors relevant to engagement, considerations for better communication, addressing unmet legal and non-legal needs, and advice for staying in contact with clients. There is also guidance on how solicitors can work effectively with Indigenous community-controlled organisations to assist with clients’ other social needs, such as accessing housing support services.

“Legal services are often most effective if they are provided as a part of a suite of therapeutic and non-therapeutic services,” the Committee said in its executive summary.

“The responsibilities of solicitors in assisting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in any legal setting are no different from those which apply in relation to non-Aboriginal people. However, there are many particular attributes of Aboriginal societies, culture and history that may be relevant to your client, which should be borne in mind in order to provide culturally safe, and therefore effective assistance.

“Solicitors will likely benefit from a deeper understanding of what is required in order to provide culturally safe and trauma-informed assistance. Without an understanding of these approaches, the consequent impairment to building a relationship of trust with an Indigenous client may adversely impact your ability to effectively discharge your professional obligations.”

Addressing client engagement, the resource notes “In addition to cultural context, there are some life experiences common to many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities that may affect how your client perceives state and legal institutions and therefore may affect how they might engage with you.”

The resource can be read here.