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Bond Law graduate's journey from offender to legal executive

Josh Apanui’s first contact with the justice system was as an offender.

But now, fuelled by a desire to give back to his community and to break down barriers for Australia’s Indigenous people, the Gold Coast man finds himself on the other side of the law, as a First Nations Legal Executive with the Queensland Law Society.

Mr Apanui is one of three inaugural recipients of Bond University’s Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice (GDLP) Indigenous Scholarship. The scholarship covers all tuition costs for the online GDLP for an Indigenous student who has completed either a Bachelor of Laws or a Juris Doctor degree, and is seeking admission as a legal practitioner.

Having previously been employed as a boilermaker, Mr Apanui said his decision to move into law was based on his desire to make a difference.

“I’m still trying to figure out who I am and where I am going, but seeing the disadvantage among Aboriginal people still…how do you try and contribute to advance that, if you’re boilermaking? So that’s one reason why I came into law, in addition to making better-informed choices.

“I came from an Aboriginal activist family, politics was interesting to me, and I sort of picked that up as a late bloomer.”

After completing his law degree at Griffith University, Mr Apanui successfully applied for the GDLP at Bond, and said receiving the scholarship had made a huge difference to him.

“It’s an honour and a privilege to be given it, and it also just reinforces that wherever we go in this world, we should always come back to where we started and give back to others who will also benefit. I hope this scholarship will remain a permanent part of Bond’s law program, in order to help future generations of students.

“It actually lightens the load financially as I’ve progressed into the profession, it assists in terms of having more to give back to the community or to do community activities or whatever it might be.”

Having recently completed his studies, he now hopes to break down some of the stereotypes of the legal profession.

“I’m guilty of it, thinking the legal profession was something completely different, but when you realise it’s not, you can actually really help people.”

He’s already begun inspiring others, beginning with his eldest son, who after joining him at the Annual Gold Coast Legal Conference, is now considering a university degree, potentially to also study law.

Of the other two inaugural GDLP scholarship recipients, Jack Butler intends to use his legal skills in his new role as an analyst at a Brisbane venture capital firm, while Canberra’s Jordan Kilcoyne is a Project Officer at the Department of Finance.

The GDLP Indigenous Scholarships are generously supported by Brisbane Barrister and Mediator, Douglas Murphy QC, who said he was keen to help and boost pathways to success for Indigenous people who were keen for themselves to succeed.

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