Cassie Lang uses native title law to protect sites of cultural importance and empower First Nations communities
QUT Alumna Cassie Lang is a solicitor who has spent more than a decade specialising in Indigenous law, particularly native title, governance, and Indigenous cultural heritage, protecting sites of cultural significance and empowering First Nations communities.
Cassie is a proud Bundjalung woman, born and raised in Brisbane. Graduating first with a Bachelor of Justice in 2004, Cassie went on to complete a Bachelor of Laws and her Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice with QUT. She currently works as a Senior Solicitor at Marrawah Law and is passionate about working with communities to understand their options and empower them in the decision-making processes.
“I love my job and the area of law that I work in because I am able to travel to different communities around the country. I work directly with clients in their communities and empower them with knowledge on how to make decisions that affect them.
For Cassie, deciding to study Law and become a lawyer was driven by passion, “I wanted to help our community understand their options and empower them in making a decision that is best for them. I am a lawyer because I enjoy helping people solve the problems that they face every day,” she said.
As a solicitor no day is the same; often Cassie facilitates difficult and emotionally charged negotiations to protect areas and sites of cultural importance. Problem solving and identifying solutions using her knowledge of the law and systems that regulate and govern processes, Cassie will often work with her team to identify each step and develop a plan.
“Part of my job involves reviewing various legal contracts and ensuring that my client’s rights are protected and not unnecessarily constrained and that the terms and obligations are weighted equally for all parties. I also work with my clients to understand their cultural governance framework so that we can incorporate those systems into the legal requirements to ensure both systems are as compatible as we can get them,” she said.
When asked what personal and professional achievement she is most proud of, Cassie says she does not have a specific one, “I am proud of each step and milestone I have reached in my career. Each of these steps has contributed to my experience and shaped how I approach my practice today. Without all of those steps I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
I am grateful for the experiences that I have and continue to experience because of the very nature of the area of law I practice in. There are a great group of practitioners who work collaboratively to resolve issues and reach mutually beneficial outcomes.
As part of her role, Cassie also mentors and supervises junior lawyers to help build their capabilities and resilience. Her advice for Law students is to spend time exploring their values and motivations and to develop a growth mindset, “Once you understand your values it will become clear what type of work drives you and what you will and will not tolerate.” Curiosity and a growth mindset will foster continuous improvement, “not only of your understanding of the law, but how you deliver your service to your clients,” she said.
Reflecting on the last 12 months and the need to remain agile Cassie says, “as technologies become more accessible, legal practitioners need to understand the benefits and limitations of traditional delivery of services and be prepared to respond to the changes that are still to come,” she said.
When looking to the future, Cassie hopes that First Nations communities are better able to access technology so that they can engage with their preferred suppliers of services. She also predicts that demand for good governance will continue to grow as more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses and corporations are set up.
As for her career goals, she says that those have changed and evolved over time, “At the moment I am focused on improving the delivery of our services and support that we provide to our clients based in remote communities across the country,” she said.
Reflecting on this year’s theme for NAIDOC week, Heal Country, Heal our nation Cassie says, “I hope that it encourages curiosity from everyone on what we can be doing better together to heal country. Each of us has a role to play, we all have our different strengths. If we can be curious together and explore how we can bring our different skills together we can solve some of these challenges.”
NAIDOC Week 2021 acknowledges and celebrates that our nation’s story didn’t begin with documented European contact. Healing Country means embracing First Nation’s cultural knowledge and understanding of Country as part of Australia's national heritage. That the culture and values of Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders are respected equally to and the cultures and values of all Australians. Healing Country is more than changing a word in our national anthem – it is about the historical, political, and administrative landscapes adapting to successfully empower and celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, nations, and heritage.