Solving complex problems with practical solutions that transcends cultural boundaries is at the heart of Marrawah Law.
This multi-award winning legal practice is the only Queensland firm to be independently certified by Supply Nation as 100% Indigenous owned, controlled and managed — and is one of only two to reach this milestone in Australia.
Marrawah Law is owned and led by highly accomplished Principal Lawyer, Leah Cameron — a proud Palawa woman from Tasmania and a member of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Business and Innovation Reference Group (BIRG).
We caught up with Leah to discuss what it means to be leading the way for Indigenous innovation in Queensland.
What inspired you to start Marrawah Law?
As a First Nations person, I know all too well how important it is for First Nations people to ‘do things the right way, not the easy way’ and to receive top quality legal services.
When I established Marrawah Law in 2013, the philosophy was not just to provide culturally appropriate advice and representation, but for the advice to be given by people who knew first-hand the client’s experiences and respected the client’s right to speak for themselves and self-determine.
I was also acutely aware that those doing business in the Indigenous space or on Indigenous lands were time and time again unable to conduct business in a culturally appropriate way. This meant a loss of business opportunities in many communities that desperately needed it and an unwillingness for business owners and government to engage, due to risk, time, cost and reputational loss.
Could you tell me a little bit about what your business does?
Marrawah Law solves complex problems with a practical solution that transcends cultural boundaries.
We provide services to government, organisations and business in the areas of commercial; construction; and Indigenous land law. We also work closely with our clientele in developing risk mitigation strategies which incorporate adherence to cultural protocols.
We have a depth of cultural knowledge and authority like no other law firm in the country, with over 70% of our staff being First Nations people and maintaining 100% Indigenous ownership.
Our expertise has been recognised nationally by our peers. We have cutting edge expertise, highly relevant experience and relationships with key stakeholders to address our client’s needs efficiently and effectively.
What are some of your achievements so far?
In 2018 and into 2019, we more than doubled our practice size and turnover and we continue to be on an upward trajectory. We have also been grateful to have our work acknowledged by a number of business awards over the past few years including:
- Cairns Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Awards 2019: Winner.
- Supply Nation Indigenous Business Woman of the Year: Finalist — Leah Cameron (Top 3).
- Price Waterhouse Cooper Murra Indigenous Business Boost 2019: Winner.
- Doyles Guide 2019: Leading Native Title Law Firm and Practitioner award winner — Leah Cameron and Oliver Gilkerson (Traditional Owner Representation); and Native Title Rising Star winner — Cassie Lang.
- Queensland Law Society’s First Nations Lawyer of the Year Award 2018: Winner — Leah Cameron.
- Attorney General’s Department Indigenous Legal Practitioner of the Year Award 2016: Winner — Leah Cameron.
What do you hope to achieve with Marrawah Law in the future?
Our vision is to be the nation’s leading independent Indigenous legal firm and the legal adviser of choice for Government, business and traditional owner groups.
We currently have nine employees. We will be expanding our offering to our clientele with additional experienced staff in the near future with our goal to more than double this number in the next two to three years
How have initiatives such as Advance Queensland assisted your business?
We were a recipient of the Accelerate Indigenous Small Business Grant in late 2017. This grant, in conjunction with other support, has given us great confidence in growing our business. It’s enabled us to obtain mentoring and business support which challenged our strategy for growing the business based upon historical trends and predicted market opportunities.
This has allowed us to examine our internal capabilities, identify initiatives to grow the business and clearly step out our quarterly must archives — in minutiae detail. Subsequently, this has enabled us to develop a detailed strategic plan which captures additional demand, focused our practice management processes and embed practices that would enhance our brand and build our workplace and workforce for future expansion.
Initiatives such as Advance Queensland are crucial for obtaining the advice and tools needed to push your business to the next level with an added level of confidence. It helps you tap into much needed support that as a business owner you often neglect — as you get caught up working in the business, rather than on the business.
Looking to the future, as a team we are now focused on not only meeting, but exceeding our goals, in the next five years
How important is government support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses?
Government is a key player in embedding procurement from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses in everyday practices. They lead by example in demonstrating just how easy it can be to make a social change through buying from, strengthening and growing Indigenous business.
How has being a member of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Reference Group made a difference to being in business and/or to the impact you hope to make in the community?
I have been able to provide first-hand accounts of issues experienced in my business, in my client’s business and across the whole Indigenous business space, which have then been acted upon by Government.
I will keep staunchly advocating for procurement from Indigenous businesses as well as much needed support. From where I stand, successful Indigenous businesses do not just change individual lives but they substantially alter the outlook for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.
The ability to provide strategic advice to government around issues faced by Indigenous business owners at all levels is crucial, in not only meeting but exceeding targets set but in ensuring we are on a path to wholesale social change through procurement.
It is something that Government cannot achieve by itself, it is something we all must work towards to break the cycle and give a chance for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children today.
What are your thoughts about the innovation and entrepreneurial scene in Queensland?
Many of my closest friends have established their own businesses. We had the confidence to dive into business because as a whole Queenslander’s are supportive of local businesses and their economy.
What are your top three tips of advice for other Indigenous businesses starting out on their innovation and/or entrepreneurial journey?
- Surround yourself with a good support network (friends, professional advisors and community members).
- Always keep in mind why you are in business.
- Keep your personal affairs in order — have a will and power of attorney in place, pay your bills and be compliant with laws and regulations.