30 years of law at Flinders University set a high bar for graduate success

Ashum Owen says her double degree in law and behavioural science from Flinders University has helped her make a difference in remote and local South Australian Aboriginal communities.

Ashum Owen graduated with a double degree from Flinders University in 2018.

Ashum Owen graduated with a double degree from Flinders University in 2018.

The proud Kaurna, Ngarrindjeri and Narungga woman, who is currently Senior Policy Officer for the SA Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People, April Lawrie, says her university education “provided a pathway to influence change and improve outcomes for Aboriginal children, families and community”.

A star Flinders graduate (BBehavSc(Psych), LLB/LP ’18), and recipient of an undergraduate Indigenous scholarship from Flinders University, Owen is joining the celebrations of the 30 years of Law at Flinders University.

“Education is key,” her university anniversary presentation stresses. “But education is not limited to the westernised notion associated with university. I refer to all types of education, most importantly our cultural education as strong, proud Aboriginal people.

“It is important we do not diminish this integral aspect of our identities when stepping into predominantly white spaces and institutions.”

Owen, 31, says the law-psychology degree from Flinders University gave her a springboard to a career pathway that matches her life aspirations.

“I am grateful for the foundational skills and learnings I gained at Flinders, and am honoured to be in a position to use them for the betterment of my community, to whom I hold my highest duty to,” she says.

“Combining law and psychology, coupled with my lived experience as a proud Aboriginal person, has allowed me to apply a trauma responsive, holistic and compassionate approach with a cultural lens to clients and community.

“The strength of cultural insight has meant deeper understanding and connections with respect to community engagement and culturally safe and appropriate solutions and responses.”

First graduating students from Finders University law in 1996.

Since graduating, Owen has travelled to the Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands and worked in the Northern Territory with remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, including with the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement then the North Australian Aboriginal Family Legal Service.

She provided legal advice and representation to Top End Aboriginal communities before returning to Adelaide to provide policy analysis and legislative advice to government systems in her latest role.

Owen’s many professional and personal concerns for the “horrific overrepresentations of Aboriginal children in the child protection and youth justice systems” and desires for “transformational systemic change for Aboriginal self-determination” and “strengthening Aboriginal children and young people’s cultural identities” was reflected in this year’s annual Flinders University annual Elliott Johnston Oration.

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The oration was presented by another Flinders University law graduate, Indigenous justice advocate and NT Australian of the Year 2022 Leanne Liddle who is also fighting to improve justice for all Australians.

Following in the footsteps of the late human rights campaigner Elliott Johnston – a founding father of Law at Flinders University – Distinguished Alumna Liddle has been a passional advocate for First Nations peoples, most recently as Director of the Aboriginal Justice Unit in the Northern Territory Department of Justice.

As one of the hundreds of Flinders legal graduates over the past 30 years,  Owen will be a part of the gala reception at the University’s Bedford Park Plaza on 3 December.

Flinders University Dean of Law, Professor Tania Leiman says Flinders University never intended to be just another law school.

“Our focus is firmly on practical learning and social justice and encouraging students to pursue critical and theoretical perspectives,” Prof Leiman says.

“Right from the start, Flinders took a step away from the traditional approach and appointed staff from both academic and professional backgrounds, and has incorporated progressive, innovative and technological skills across the curriculum, including in the topic Law in the Digital Age, which graduates are applying directly to 21st Century best practice in the workforce.

“Flinders University has produced lawyers and legal professionals who are using their skills in a wide range of fields, from the justice system to major corporates here and internationally, in government and for-purpose sector.”

To celebrate the hallmark 30 years of Law, a new series of 24 podcasts will roll out into 2023 to highlight a selection of some of the trailblazing graduates from Law at Flinders University since the first cohort commenced in 1992.

Listen to more from Ashum Owen at this podcast.

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