Lincoln Crowley Becomes Australia’s First Indigenous Supreme Court Judge

This Monday, proud Warramunga man Lincoln Crowley became Australia's First Indigenous Supreme Court Judge. His ceremony took place in Brisbane where Crowley was sworn in to Queensland's Supreme Court. This is a significant moment for not only First Nations peoples, but all Australians. It’s an important step in an ongoing process of increasing representation, acknowledgement and respect of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples within our nation's legal systems (The Guardian, 2022).

Lincoln Crowley’s early life and career 

Lincoln Crowley. Courtesy of SBS News, 2022.

Growing up in the small country town of Charters Towers, QLD, in the 1980s, he experienced ongoing discrimination and racism.

“I knew it was not fair when I applied for a part time job after school at a local shop and later found out that the manager threw my application in the bin, while saying: ‘They’re Aboriginal, aren’t they?...And I knew it was not fair when teachers suggested that I wouldn’t amount to anything and when others judged me, and my worth, and potential without even knowing me,” said Crowley about his struggles in a press statement.

Crowley was inspired by his father, a retired army officer and one of the Australian Defence Force’s first Indigenous Majors. His dad encouraged his kids to become educated and make something of themselves (NIT, 2022). Making his dad proud, Crowley put himself through law school and has gone on to have an impressive career as a lawyer.

In 2003, Crowley passed the bar and started his career working for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service and the NSW Crown Solicitor’s Office. His outstanding career accomplishments include being a Crown Prosecutor from the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions in Queensland and a private counsel for the NSW DPP. Crowley has also served as a Senior Counsel, assisting the Disability Royal Commission (The Guardian, 2022).

Importance of Representation within Australia’s Justice System

Representation of First Nations people within Australia’s judicial system is incredibly important for a number of reasons. Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman, who congratulated Crowley on his appointment, elaborated on this point to the ABC News (2022):

“...there is a strong relationship between diversity in the bench and public trust in the judicial system, and public confidence in the impartiality of the institution.”

The bar association president, Damien O’Brien QC, discussed at length to The Guardian about how there has been a significant lack of Indigenous Australian voices within the legal system for too long, and that that judiciary system hasn’t acknowledged the important role First Nations peoples have as custodians of this Country (The Guardian, 2022).

In his interview with the Guardian (2022) O’Brian also acknowledged Crowley:

“Your Honour’s elevation to become the first First Nation superior court judge in this land is an important step in a much longer process to ensure that this historical role is rectified.”