Celebrating NAIDOC Week: Stephanie Parkin and her postgraduate journey

I am a proud woman from the Quandamooka people of Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island), and I completed my Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of Justice double degree in 2011. I secured a graduate role with McCullough Robertson Lawyers, and practised for five years as an Intellectual Property Lawyer. I then returned to QUT for postgraduate study, and completed my Master of Philosophy with the QUT Faculty of Law this year.

My background as a practising intellectual property lawyer influenced my decision to return to postgraduate study as I wanted to obtain further knowledge and expertise in a particular area that was important to my people.

My Masters research focused on the issue of fake or inauthentic Aboriginal art and craft products in the souvenir market. Inauthentic art and craft have existed in the Australian marketplace for decades. They have an “Aboriginal” style in visual appearance; however, they are entirely manufactured (usually overseas) and sold without the consent or involvement of an Aboriginal person.

My research revealed how such fake products exploit cultural expression, are representations of ongoing colonialism, and how they impact Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. My thesis looked at the ways in which the law can address the issue of fake art in the souvenir market, while also exploring the colonial influences and power imbalances that contribute to the lack of law reform and change.

Indigenous Art Code

In my current role as Chairperson of the Indigenous Art Code Ltd, I assist the organisation to support artists and establish standards of fair and ethical trade between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and those who wish to sell or licence their works.

I understand the importance of law reform and spreading awareness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ cultural and intellectual property rights, and how such rights and cultural expressions are not only significant to the arts and other industries, but are fundamental to understanding and engaging with the foundations of our country and national identity.

My postgraduate study at QUT

I made the most of my time at QUT, attending and speaking at various research conferences and authoring pieces for journal articles. A highlight was when the QUT Faculty of Law hosted a Law Symposium where I and other community and industry leaders spoke on the issues of fake Aboriginal art and craft products in the souvenir market. I appreciated the real privilege it was to have the time to commit to an issue and area of the law where I could give back to my community and promote the voices and rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

My advice for others considering postgraduate study is to be open to all opportunities that may come your way. I did not think that postgraduate research would be a path I would take, however when the opportunity presented itself, I learned about the process and took advice from trusted people around me.

Stay committed to your calling – for me, it always was and always will be to work hard for the rights of my people.

NAIDOC Week 2020 – Always was, Always will be

Reflecting on this year’s theme for NAIDOC Week (Always was, Always will be), I’m mindful that while we as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people recognise and value what that statement means, it is evident that deep understanding of the meaning behind that statement is not fully recognised within the broader community and those with decision making power.

This year’s theme is strong and resonates with all Aboriginal people. These lands and waters are a part of us – that they always have and always will be. Nothing will change that.

Indigenous scholarships

QUT offers Indigenous scholarships which are open all year round to apply for. To find out more about Indigenous law research opportunities*, visit the QUT website.

More about NAIDOC Week

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 this planet and to recognise that our sovereignty was never ceded.

Always was. Always will be.

Celebrate NAIDOC Week 2020



* A specific project will commence shortly, researching young Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander women and their experiences of community services and youth justice systems across Australia. If you would like more information about this research project, contact Kelly Richards from the School of Justice, Faculty of Law.

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