SMH Jan 2012
AUSTRALIA'S first indigenous lawyer to be appointed to a Federal Court says he hopes to be a role model for young indigenous people.
Matthew Myers, who was sworn in as a magistrate to the Federal Magistrates Court on the 23rd January, says he wants to encourage indigenous first-year law students, and those contemplating law, and let them know they can "make a real difference".
Myers completed a bachelor of arts/law at the University of NSW in 1997, and then went on to complete his masters in law, as well as gaining other qualifications in mediation and dispute resolution.
New Federal Magistrate Matthew Myers saidIf you look at the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population, it is desperately overrepresented in the courts, both in the number of people being charged and . . . in the prison population,.
But when it comes to the legal profession, it is "massively under-represented
It is a difficult process to get into law school, and a difficult process to get through law school and a lot of (indigenous) families don't expect their children to even go to university.
He began practising in a small law firm on the NSW central coast, which is where he says he started his career in family law virtually by accident.
Several years later, he set up his own law firm, called Cameron Myers, in partnership with a colleague. The business was focused on conveyancing, family law and property law.
Federal Magistrate Myers saidOne of the partners who was doing family law didn't want to do family law any more and handed me all of his files and said: 'You are going to be doing family law now, I recalled
By 2009, the conveyancing side of the business had become unprofitable because of the increase in the number of licensed conveyancers, and so the partners decided to practise exclusively in the family law area.
Myers began to take on pro bono work, and serves on Centacare's advisory council. He also did a lot of work for the Eleanor Duncan Aboriginal Health Care Centre in Wyong on the NSW central coast, assisting clients who were going through break-ups, domestic violence and removal of children by the Department of Community Services. Myers says it "wasn't that onerous" to juggle his pro bono work with his practice.
He added that it can be difficult for lawyers to do pro bono work unless their practices are also doing well.
Federal Magistrate Matthew Myers saidYou just do it; it's part of your day
Myers says lawyers working in small practices in the past would have done well from conveyancing, workers compensation and personal injury, and were often able to help people who could not afford to pay their bills. But now times are harder.
Federal Magistrate Matthew Myers saidThe legal profession is not as strong as it used to be. A lot of lawyers are really struggling to pay their wages, and to pay their bills.
The Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin congratulated Mr Myers on his appointment and commented on the impact his presence would have on diversity within the courts and community.Matthew Myers:
Matthew previously worked at Central Coast Family Law Matthew Myers holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree and Bachelor of Laws Degree from the University of New South Wales. He is a Law Society Accredited Family Law Specialist and has practiced Family Law since 1997. Matthew is a member of the Family Law Section of the Law Council of Australia, and was admitted as a Solicitor and Barrister of the High Court of Australia in 1997. Matthew is additionally a qualified and accredited Collaborative Family Lawyer.
Matthew works regularly in the Sydney, Newcastle and Parramatta Family and Federal Magistrates Courts representing clients in parenting and property settlement matters. Matthew has the necessary skills to competently and efficiently represent clients in all manner of Family Law matters.
Australias first Indigenous federal magistrate was welcomed to the Federal Magistrates Court on Friday (10 February) in a special sitting of the court.
The Honourable Jenny Macklin saidMr Myers is a leader in his community and a positive role model for young Indigenous Australians
This is an historic appointment, and will encourage others to take on leadership roles and make positive contributions to their communities.
Attorney-General Nicola Roxon officially congratulated Matthew Myers in a statement released on Friday.
The Government announced Myers appointment in December last year, and he took up the role on 23 January.
Attorney-General Nicola Roxon saidWhile all appointments to the federal judiciary are important, this particular appointment is a significant one
Mr Myers Indigenous heritage will add to the diversity of the Court and inspire young Australians from all cultural backgrounds to aspire to the federal judiciary
Myers was admitted as a solicitor to the Supreme Court of New South Wales in 1997, after which he worked as a solicitor at Strain Kernan Cameron Solicitors in Terrigal, undertaking Legal Aid and private family law work in parenting and property matters.
In 1999, he commenced in partnership with Malcolm Cameron, continuing with Legal Aid and private family law work in parenting and property matters, up until his appointment to the Federal Magistrates Court.
Myers, who is also a nationally accredited mediator, will be based at the Newcastle registry.