Cairns-based Mamu and Gunggandji lawyer wins state award for commitment to justice
12th Feb 2021
A Cairns-based Mamu and Gunggandji barrister who works to provide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals and communities fair access to the legal system was today presented with the Australian Lawyers Alliance’s (ALA) Queensland Civil Justice Award.
The annual ALA Civil Justice Award recognises individuals or organisations who have displayed an outstanding commitment to the pursuit of justice.
“Barrister Melia Benn is a very deserving winner of our Civil Justice Award,” said ALA State President, Mr Greg Spinda. “She is one of only two female Indigenous barristers in Queensland and she works tirelessly to assist Indigenous communities to receive proper access to justice.
“She often works on a pro-bono or reduced fee basis to represent Indigenous clients
who would otherwise have difficulties obtaining legal advice.
“She is committed to representing young clients, encouraging them by her example and demonstrating that they can achieve more if they stay in school and received an education.”
Melia has worked on several Indigenous human rights class actions including stolen wages cases in two states.
“Melia is an outstanding example to the Australian legal profession. She has genuine passion for her work and an altruistic motivation for her pursuits,” said Mr Spinda.
“In a short time, Melia has made a significant contribution to furthering civil justice in Indigenous communities. In particular, through her work with Indigenous women she has helped to preserve the dignity of women in an otherwise sometimes undignified legal process.”
Previous winners of the Queensland Civil Justice Award include law firm founder Kerry Splatt, Bravehearts founder Hetty Johnson AM, patient advocate Beryl Crosby, Sisters Inside CEO Debbie Kilroy and human rights barrister Stephen Keim SC.
Ms Benn was announced as the recipient of this award today at the ALA Queensland Conference on the Gold Coast.