Written by Julia Day
Sometimes life has a way of delivering exactly what you need on any given day. This was exactly what happened to me when I spoke with Trent Wallace who completed his law degree in 2016.
Trent is an inspiration- he is smart, upbeat, insightful and clearly a lot of fun! Aside from being a talented legal practitioner, Trent is also a lover of fashion. His interest in the more glamorous parts of life was piqued through his obsession with Vogue Magazine at a tender age. He ‘liked to look at beautiful things’ as a form of escapism from his normal life.
After completing his law degree at UNE, he undertook roles as a volunteer with the Central Coast Community Legal Centre. ‘Within this role I worked alongside the incredible Bobbi Murray, a proud Aboriginal woman who invested time and support in me!’ He also undertook a graduate job as a solicitor with the Australian Government Solicitor (Michael Kingston) on secondment to Australian Pro Bono Centre, as well as roles with the Disability Royal Commission.
Trent is currently the First Nations Advisor and Lawyer- he sits in the Pro Bono and Social Impact Team within the Ashurst Law Firm- in the Sydney office. Trent creates and oversees the First Nations initiatives, and is the first Aboriginal person in this role in a global law firm. In addition, he collaborates with staff overseas on anti-racist initiatives.
Trent has also created content for the UNSW’s PLT program which relates to working with First Nations clients. ’I was the cultural consultant and created material for the program after realising many lawyers wanted to work in First Nations spaces. In many cases these legal practitioners did not have an understanding of effective First Nations models of communication or perhaps they exhibited unconscious bias.’
When I asked about the Blacks Lives Matter movement, Trent noted ‘it is not just black lives that matter-black success matter and black voices matter!’ He is also part of the ‘Reclaiming Blakness’ movement. This relates to amongst other things, reclaiming one’s blackness through language and owning one’s whole identity through voices and opinions. ‘This is not about being divisive, I just want to feel comfortable in my own skin! I don’t want people to be shocked when they realise I am educated and successful whilst being a First Nation’s person.’
Like many of our #UNELaw students, Trent made lifelong friends whilst studying with us. One good example of this was with Jacqui Bilson, who was Trent’s study buddy throughout the degree. Trent was always inspired by Jacqui who completed her degree as an online student whilst being a single mother with 3 kids. He was always impressed UNE offered ‘the ability to balance family, social, and cultural and community interests.’
Trent’s favourite subjects whilst completing his law degree were LAW480 (Research, Writing and Advocacy) and Corporations Law with Paul Akon and Dr Same Varayudej. Trent was particularly excited that he was able to complete his moot with his study partner and friend Jacqui. Torts with ‘yours truly’ also rated a bit of a mention because of its application to daily life.
Trent is very encouraging of other Indigenous students completing a law degree. ‘Let our unique voices and lived experience be heard. We must lead First Nations initiatives. Remind our allies that their position is to step aside whilst amplifying our voices, solutions and initiatives. Our allies should stand behind and beside us as opposed to in front of us.’
Thank you very much Trent for sharing your very inspirational story!
 Trent would also like to acknowledge Geetha Nair, Louise Vardanega PSM, John Corker and Sarah Morton-Ramwell for taking a chance on him. He is also extremely grateful to his amazing family and friends for their continued support.