QUT Law Alumnus Robert Hannam has committed his life to advocating for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people working as a Senior Court Support Officer with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (Qld) Ltd (ATSILS).
Robert is a proud Birri Gubba and Durrumbal man and happily married father of three beautiful daughters. Robert was a sub-contractor in the building industry for 20 years before completing his Bachelor of Justice, majoring in Criminology and Policing in 2016.
He has always been passionate about social justice and advocating for the marginalised, particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. “Growing up in a stable, supportive Aboriginal family where lively discussions about politics, social and environmental issues were common, I think developing a passion for justice was inevitable.”
ATSILS is a not-for-profit, community-controlled organisation that delivers innovative, professional criminal, civil and family law services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients throughout Queensland. In his current role as Senior Court Support Officer, Robert provides clients with knowledge and understanding of the criminal justice system and their rights within it. He also assists Barristers, Solicitors and other legal staff to provide a service that is sensitive and responsive to the specific needs of each client.
"As a proud Aboriginal man, who knows the value of our culture and understands the detrimental impact of colonisation, I feel a strong sense of responsibility to be part of the solutions aimed at addressing the systemic issues that undermine our cultural, social and economic development."
In his role at ATSILS Robert is actively involved in encouraging procedural fairness within the criminal justice system and contributing to better outcomes for his people. Robert believes that we have the power to shape our future by engaging with people of differing views in respectful and intentional conversation, and encouraging the success of others.
"I hope to live in a society where a person’s likelihood of success is not determined by the social and economic status of their parents or family. I would like to see an end to social issues being treated like political footballs and appropriate levels of support given to holistic, evidence-based policies aimed at addressing them."
Robert hopes to become a key stakeholder in the development of practical, evidence-based policies that produce meaningful results for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other marginalised groups in contact with the criminal justice system.
Robert says his experience at QUT taught him to critically assess the credibility of information, and this skill has served him well in his career. “At QUT I gained the ability to assess an issue from all angles. This has allowed me to take a more considered approach to decision making and to recognise my own prejudicial tendencies.”
He encourages students and legal professionals to challenge themselves.
"Nothing worthwhile is ever achieved by staying in your comfort zone. I think everyone should make a concerted effort to connect with people and organisations in the field they would like to work in. I’m proud to have stepped out of my comfort zone and followed my passion – to make the move from the building industry, back to study and now to a fulfilling career in law and justice."
Reflecting on this year’s theme for NAIDOC week, Always was, Always will be Robert says, “It evokes feelings of pride and determination. Pride in who we are, our resilience and our determination to overcome our collective struggles. It represents our ancient history and our bright future.”
“My proudest achievement is without doubt my beautiful family - the three wonderful daughters my wife and I are raising to be strong, proud and independent individuals.”
NAIDOC Week 2020 acknowledges and celebrates that our nation’s story didn’t begin with documented European contact. NAIDOC 2020 invites all Australians to embrace the true history of this country – a history which dates back thousands of generations.
It is about seeing, hearing and learning the First Nations’ 65,000+ year history of this country - which is Australian history. We want all Australians to celebrate that we have the oldest continuing cultures on the planet and to recognise that our sovereignty was never ceded.
Always Was, Always Will Be.