posted Jan 16, 2019

Bain’s work as a community lawyer in Australia provides a voice for its underserved population.

While working as a paralegal in her native Australia, Frances Bain saw first-hand the many challenges faced by aboriginal youth, a disproportionate number of whom are in the care of the state, as they enter the judicial system. These experiences made her aware of the importance of this vulnerable population having access to professional and culturally appropriate legal services.

After completing an undergraduate law degree in 2011 from the University of Queensland, Bain worked as a criminal defense lawyer for the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency in Darwin, largely representing youth aged 10 to 17.

“The work was eye-opening,” she said. “I traveled to remote circuit courts and got to see some incredible aspects of the aboriginal culture, the oldest continuous culture on earth. But I also saw the huge difficulties these youth face in achieving social and economic justice.”

After four years, Bain took a break from the emotionally and physically taxing work, choosing instead to immerse herself in a graduate law program. She was drawn to the UW School of Law for its innovative Sustainable International Development program, which offers an Indigenous Rights Law concentration, as well as the prestigious Native American Law Center.

“Our aboriginal population shares many challenges faced by Native Americans,” Bain said. “My year in Seattle gave me time to reflect on my own country and to think about the American approach to indigenous populations.”

Bain received scholarship aid for one quarter. Additional financial support came as a seven-week paid internship with the Lummi Nation, where she researched and developed strategies about using Lummi culture in tribal court as a culturally relevant sentencing tool.

Bain returned to Australia in 2017 after earning an LLM. yet she continues to stay in touch with students and faculty she met in Seattle.

“My cohort included people from all over the world, which would not have been the case in Australia,” she said. “I now have a worldwide network of professionals to lean on and to learn from.”

Today, Bain is a senior community lawyer at Fitzroy Legal Service in Melbourne, one of the oldest community legal services in Australia where she serves and advocates for a range of underserved communities.

“I think lawyers need to reach beyond themselves,” Bain said. “We need to make our communities a better place to live, regardless of where in the world that happens to be.”