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Law Council of Australia


Ruth Morley

How long have you worked as a RRR lawyer?

I have lived and worked in Central Australia as a legal practitioner for 26 years.

What led you to work in RRR areas?

I studied anthropology at ANU then law at UNSW. I took an early interest in working in Indigenous affairs in Australia. I had grown up in Yellowknife, in the NW Territories of Canada, Singapore and a small village in the UK called Marshfield. My interest in Indigenous affairs was fostered by Professor Garth Nettheim, who encouraged me to seek voluntary field experience as part of my studies. I did so and worked with Magistrate Pat O’Shane and the Wellington Wiradjuri Aboriginal Corporation.

I did my summer clerkship with Katherine Regional Aboriginal Legal Aid Service. I graduated and wrote to Ms Pam Ditton who operated a private practice in Alice Springs. Ms Ditton accepted me as an Articled Clerk for 12 months. I then successfully applied for a junior legal officer position with Pitjantjatjara Council. I have continued to work in Central Australia in private practise, with Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Land Council (“APY”) and with Police Prosecutions as a specialist domestic violence prosecutor over the subsequent years.

I am now the principal legal adviser to APY and coordinate all legal advice for this statutory authority so I have trammelled a career path of sorts through some very challenging terrain.

What does your work week look like as a RRR lawyer?

My work covers a land area of over 106,000 square kilometres and covers all manner of land use legal matters from mining and exploration to cattle grazing and roads construction, telecommunications and power infrastructure, leasing and licensing, water management to tourism to litigation in the Supreme Court and District Courts and Tribunals. This is in addition to the advice I provide the Executive Board with respect to governance as well as working strategically between APY and government and preparing submissions on a variety of legislative matters.

I routinely travel a round trip of 900 kilometres off road in all weathers to attend Executive Board meetings and meetings of Traditional Owners with respect to land use proposals. It has taken 26 years to get a handle on this work and provide an effective legal service to APY. It is hard work and challenging but also deeply satisfying.