Brian Attard wins First Nations Lawyer of the Year award


Kamilaroi man Brian-John Attard from Seniors Rights Service has been awarded First Nations Lawyer of the Year at the 2022 Ngalaya Ball

Brian has paid a particularly pivotal role in ensuring that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people victims of credit scams and the Youpla Funeral Fund collapse can access justice. One of Brian's great strengths is his compassion, and his ability to connect with and meaningfully support the Aunts and Uncles who turn to him for support in his role at Seniors Rights Service. 

Brian Attard accepting First Nations Lawyer Award at the Ngalaya Ball 2022. Photo: Ngalaya Indigenous Corporation.

Brian was admitted as a lawyer in 2015, and has worked as a Solicitor at the Senior Rights Service since 2020. Before this, Brian was a Solicitor in the Health Justice Partnership at Redfern Legal Centre. Brian was nominated for the award by five people from the community legal sector, including colleagues, Aboriginal staff, and sector leaders.

Oliver Williams, Brian's mentee and First Nations Cadet with Community Legal Centres NSW, said in his nomination letter:

Sitting in on the Pro Bono Clinics we see a great amount of First Nations clients, particularly suffering from intergenerational trauma. Uncle Brian has taught me how to nurture these clients. You can tell and feel the anxiety of Aunts and Uncles talking to us, and as soon as Brian has a yarn with them and assists them with their legal issues, you can hear and feel the relief and happiness in their voices. Additionally, I have seen, particularly in outreaches, that the community respects, loves and appreciates Brian to the extent that … Uncles and Aunties call him their “best friend,” occasionally break down in tears of happiness and say that he is a life saver.

Mitchell S Harvey, Acting Principal Solicitor at Seniors Rights Service, spoke of the passion and zeal that Brian brings to his role in tackling issues such as predatory practices by financial institutions: 

In the 18 months I’ve worked with [Brian], I can happily say I’ve never worked with a more passionate, dedicated solicitor. He brings an infectious energy to the role that lifts the whole team up to not just want to do better every day, but also enjoy doing it…

His skill and zeal for the role is clear to anyone he works with – client, colleague or even, I’d wager, opposing counsel. I think he’s probably taught me more about the law and legal issues facing First Nations people in 18 months than my previous decade in the legal system.

As acting Principal, I’ve seen daily what he does to help the community through some very difficult times, whether one on one or through strategic advocacy and litigation. He’s the scourge of pay day lenders and dodgy product spruikers  a great solicitor, and a great mate.

Bobbi Murray, First Nations Cadetship Administrator at Community Legal Centres NSW, outlined Brian's commitment to achieving justice for Aboriginal communities: 

Brian brings a real passion to the work that can be really reinvigorating. Brian is Kamilori man from Brewarrina and knows what it’s like to live in rural remote Aboriginal community that is preyed upon by many a scam.  Brian does love a challenge and will go beyond to make justice a reality for community who don’t get access as easily as others. Particularly with credit scams and the Youpla Funeral Fund collapse.

In his acceptance speech for First Nations Lawyer of the Year, Brian said: 

I am truly humbled and honoured to have my work recognised in this way by Ngalya and my fellow peers. It means so much to me that the work i am passionate about also resonates with so many. This accomplishment though is not something that i did alone. I grew up from a humble background and at times quite traumatic. I thank my brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, my peers, my colleagues, my mentors, and the many hours of pro bono assistance. 

My greatest reward is when an aunt and uncle have stated the following to me: "yeah Brian, he's not just my lawyer, he's my best friend."

As the peak-body for community legal centres, we are truly lucky to work alongside Brian. Brian's experience as a solicitor who works with, and advocates for, First Nations clients is invaluable to the program and policy decisions we make as a peak. His enthusiasm, quiet tenacity, commitment to justice, and compassion embodies what it means to be a community lawyer. Congratulations, Brian.

Watch Brian's acceptance speech »