Our History

Our history

Ngalaya has always been run by Indigenous lawyers for Indigenous lawyers.

Since 1997, our volunteer board has worked to support First Nations lawyers and law students throughout NSW, and now the ACT.
Learn more about our history below.

Ngalaya was founded in 1997 by a group of 25 law students at the University of New South Wales. Cal Martin was a key founder of Ngalaya, seeing the need to set up an Indigenous lawyer and law student association.

Ngalaya was Australia’s first association of Indigenous lawyers, followed by our sister organisations including Tarwirri, ILAQ, and Winkiku Rrumbangi.

Ngalaya was incorporated in 1998 under the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Act 1976 (Cth), since superseded by the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006 (Cth).

The vision

Ngalaya was founded with the vision that Indigenous lawyers have opportunities to:

  • connect and network with each other
  • support and assist each other
  • grow through professional development and strength
  • research for the broader vision of Indigenous people

What does Ngalaya mean?

Ngalaya comes from the Dharug / Eora languages. Ngalaya means ‘allies in arms/battle’.

It was chosen as the name for our peak body, to represent that all First Nations lawyers are brothers and sisters in the battle for justice.

It was about being in battle and being staunch

Cal Martin, 2019 (former Ngalaya President)

The Ngalaya logo

Ngalaya’s serpent logo was designed by a group of students at the University of New South Wales, and later digitised.

Early members and directors of Ngalaya included: Kevin Williams, Robynne Quiggin, Tony McAvoy SC, Damien Barnes, Terri Janke and Shahzand Rind.

In May 2002, Ngalaya hosted the Inspiring Youth Forum in Sydney, with appearances from the President of the NSW Law Society and the NSW Attorney General. Indigenous lawyers shared experiences of their career paths with other Indigenous lawyers and law students.

…I remember during my time as a director early on that there were some challenges, but the thing that was always great about Ngalaya was the professional and social interaction and networking opportunities – getting to meet and mix with other Indigenous lawyers and students across the board and share experiences. That was always a success

Lincoln Crowley

National Indigenous Legal Conference 2011

Ngalaya co-hosted the sixth National Indigenous Legal Conference with the NSW Bar Association in August 2011.

NSW Law Society support (2012-14)

Ngalaya received funding and in-kind support from the NSW Law Society through its 2012-2014 Reconciliation Action Plan to employ a part-time Coordinator/Executive Officer and fund Ngalaya’s core activities.

This was the first and only time Ngalaya received ongoing funding for its activities.

Ngalaya hosted a relaunch event in April 2019, to mark the Ngalaya’s reinvigoration after a period of inactivity.

Since the relaunch, Ngalaya’s membership has over tripled in size. Ngalaya has become a registered charity and deductible gift recipient, and partnered with organisations in the legal industry to grow the next generation of First Nations law-makers. Ngalaya expanded to allow membership for First Nations lawyers and law students in the ACT.