School of Indigenous Studies

Tanya Pass


UWA Law Graduate Tanya Pass 

Having a Bachelor of Laws degree has provided me with fulfilment in my career. My clients generally live in circumstances of deprivation where poverty, unemployment, lack of education and inadequate housing are common.

They are ill-equipped to respond to discrimination and assert their rights. I am fortunate to be in a position to help address some of these issues and in turn give Aboriginal people the confidence they need to improve their role in society and importantly, their rights as human beings.

I am the Community Legal Education Lawyer at Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service Inc (CAALAS), in my hometown of Alice Springs. I am passionate about the opportunities and equality created through legal education and enjoy travelling throughout my  homeland of Central Australia teaching Aboriginal people about their legal rights and responsibilities.

I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to be in Year 12, my preference was something to do with animals but unfortunately I wasn’t blessed with a science brain. I decided to try law because I had heard that there were a lot of different things you could do with a law degree, apart from becoming a lawyer.

My law degree has taken my all over Australia and given me a diverse range of jobs. While I was studying, I worked for the Northern Territory Government doing Property Management, then Policy and Litigation for the Department of Justice. My first year out of university, I worked as a Judge’s Associate at the Supreme Court of Victoria in Melbourne. That job gave me the confidence I needed to come home to Alice Springs and commence practising as a lawyer.

Having a law degree provides you with a huge range of job opportunities so don’t be fooled into thinking you aren’t smart enough to be a lawyer. Believe in yourself, you can be anything that you want to be. I don’t come from a family of lawyers, doctors or professionals. I was never one of those kids who said “I want to go to University”, nor was I particularly intellectual. It wasn’t until high school that something clicked and I made myself smart, in other words I decided to apply myself. I didn’t get the score required to go to University and study law but I did the School of Indigenous StudiesAboriginal Pre- Law Course at UWA and climbed my way there. Then throughout my degree I had the support and mentoring of the School of Indigenous Studies - they were instrumental in helping me achieve my qualifications. Law can be boring at times but if you can read and are organised, you can do it.

So don’t panic if when you finish Year 12 you don’t achieve quite as well as you hope, there are always opportunities to get to where you want to be, it might take a bit longer but if you stick at it you can get there. Then once you have your degree your career path will choose you. I never thought I would be in the role I have now, but it all happened by chance, and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.