‘I see opportunities rather than challenges’ – Lawrence Moser continues his proud history of advocacy

‘I see opportunities rather than challenges’ – Lawrence Moser continues his proud history of advocacy

Thursday, 11 February 2021

Lawrence Newbound wearing a grey sweater and white polo shirt while sitting in front of an office window with Melbourne city buildings in the background.
Associate Director, Aboriginal Services, Lawrence Moser

Experiencing the early sting of racism

A proud Taungurung man, our new Associate Director, Aboriginal Services, Lawrence Moser comes to us with an honourable history of advocating for the rights and equality of Victoria’s First Nations peoples.

Lawrence says it’s a history that ‘started early in the playground when I had to verbally and physically stand up for my colour and cultural background. Words may only be words, but the manner and tone in which they are delivered can create deep hurt, and a snowball effect that leads to other consequences.’

‘My short attendance at secondary school also highlighted to me that life as a black person in Australia presents many challenges, including social acceptance, securing employment, completing education and accessing housing and quality health care.’

Painful stories and experiences of his ancestors have had a significant impact on Lawrence and drive his desire for a ‘fair go for my mob.’

‘My mother and grandmother were forced to live under what can only be described as apartheid and segregation on Cummeragunga Mission and the mud flats of Mooroopna, Victoria.

‘They had to sign the Mission Manager’s official register book before they could travel to Echuca for the day, and be back by a set time to sign in, or they risked punishment, including the withholding of rations.

‘These stories laid the foundations for advocating for my mob. My initial advocacy began via physical force due the racial taunts of the school yard bullies, but graduated to more sophisticated forms of advocacy, using the tools and processes across government and various interest groups.’

Improving First Nations people’s interaction with the justice system

The drive to improve First Nations people’s interactions with the justice system is also deeply personal for Lawrence.

‘My family and extended family have experienced the trauma and loss of a loved one through custody, having a first cousin die in the old Bendigo Police Cells in 1990 (Alan Joseph Walsh, RIP) after being picked up for drunk and disorderly. Another close connection to my mob, Clive (Stick) Charles also died in custody at Dharrungile Prison after suffering an asthma attack, and not being provided medication.

‘There are too many other unnecessary deaths and may they all rest in peace.’

These tragedies have driven Lawrence to do valuable work for his mob in the justice space, including chairing the Loddon Mallee Regional Aboriginal Justice Advisory Group, during which he was responsible for pursuing changes around bail practice processes that benefited all Victorians requiring a bail hearing. He also secured a commitment from Court Services Victoria to establish a Koori Children’s Court at Swan Hill, which eventually led to him becoming a sitting ‘Respected Person’ at the Koori Courts in Swan Hill and Broadmeadows, as well as the Melbourne Magistrates’ and County Koori Courts.

Seeing opportunities rather than challenges

As for the challenges facing Indigenous Victorians, and his role in helping address them, Lawrence prefers a different perspective.

‘I see opportunities rather than challenges for Indigenous Victorians. There are opportunities available now that have come about through the courage and tenacity of many significant Aboriginal people including Truganni, William Cooper, Pearl Gibbs, Charlie Perkins and Evelyn Scott through to Lidia Thorpe today.

‘26 January is one such opportunity. Created by poor decision making in 1994 to proclaim an official holiday and celebration, this event has given Indigenous people the opportunity to highlight the injustice of that day. It has also challenged non-Indigenous Australians to rethink our national day of celebration, and move to a date that unifies, rather than divides the nation.

‘There is an opportunity to understand what a Treaty outcome could mean for not just Victoria, but the nation. And there is an opportunity for the media to promote trust and truth, rather than creating mistrust through sensationalist reporting. For example, the Victorian NAIDOC Week march is always reported as a protest march, rather than a celebration of First Nations culture, and a chance for non-Indigenous Australia to celebrate with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.’

26 January and national Apology to the Stolen Generations

26 January has always been a painful day for First Nations peoples. It elicits a range of strong emotions in Indigenous Australians, and Lawrence is no different.

‘I don’t celebrate this date, but rather reflect on what my ancestors might have encountered that day through their eyes, and not the pages of a foreigner’s writings.

‘It’s a day of sadness that signifies the commencement of colonisation, dispossession, segregation, First Nations people (including my mother) being forced on to missions, exclusion from the mainstream and denial of rights extended to white Australians.

‘The fact that it was made a public holiday reflects poor insight, however it has also created the discussion and the movement to change to the date, and rightly so. Aboriginal people don’t have an issue with having a day to recognise and celebrate our Australian identity, however 26 January is not the date to do so.

‘The challenge lies with the broader Australian community to create the appetite and leadership for changing the date. Regardless, Aboriginal people will continue to speak the truth on what the date signifies to them, truth will win over and the date will eventually change. Ultimately, there is more to be gained from changing the date than staying with it.’

This year, more than one hundred of our staff chose to work on 26 January and take an alternative day off, which Lawrence found very encouraging.

‘These numbers show that people are slowly recognising the pain that 26 January stirs in First Nations peoples, and this is recognised in the wider community.’

Thirteen years on from the national apology to the Stolen Generations, Lawrence is thoughtful about the progress that has been made, but believes there is still much work to be done.

‘Whilst there have been some improvements in the employment rates of First Nations people by corporate Australia, Indigenous people still face huge challenges with education, housing, employment and health outcomes, and juvenile and adult incarceration rates are unacceptably high.

‘My mob is often caught up in a cycle of poverty and incarceration, and I am committed to have an impact on this situation via my role.’

Looking to the future

Impressed by the ground work that has already been done via our best practice Reconciliation Action Plan, and the commitment from our Senior Executive Team to implement it, Lawrence is inspired and looking forward to making a difference in the lives of Indigenous Victorians.

‘I was born black and I will die black, and like my mother, grandmother and apical ancestors before me, I will always advocate for fairness and what is right.

‘Victoria Legal Aid is the ideal place and vehicle for me to continue my advocacy, and I look forward to using my position to deliver better outcomes for my people.’

More information

Welcoming Lawrence Moser as Associate Director, Aboriginal Services

Aboriginal Services Strategy

Reconciliation Action Plan

Read about our Aboriginal Community Engagement Officers

Was this helpful?