Educational Disadvantages and Indigenous Law Students: Barriers and Potential Solutions

Angela Melville

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Indigenous students are under-represented in Australian universities, including in law school, and have lower educational outcomes relative to non-Indigenous students. First, this article identifies systemic barriers that prevent Indigenous students from enrolling in law school, including entrenched educational disadvantage that prevents many Indigenous students from achieving the grades necessary for university entry. Indigenous students who overcome this disadvantage and enrol in law schools then face higher attrition rates relative to non-Indigenous law students. Indigenous students find law schools to be intimidating, unfamiliar and alienating environments. Law schools privilege a narrow Western model of legal education that continues to deny Indigenous understandings of the law. Second, this article identifies potential solutions that may assist in addressing these barriers. These include alternative entry schemes, building pathways between vocational training and universities and engaged outreach programmes for assisting Indigenous students into higher education. Academic, social and financial support is required to address attrition rates; however, solutions need to go deeper than the provision of additional assistance. This article argues for the need to Indigenize legal education, and for the curriculum to consider law as pluralistic and embedded in power relations, and to provide the focus on social justice which motivates many Indigenous students to study law in the first place.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-115
Number of pages21
JournalAsian Journal of Legal Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017


  • Indigenous students
  • Law students
  • Law schools
  • Australian universities
  • Cultural competency
  • Higher education
  • Higher education entry requirements


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