Lincoln Crowley appointed Australia’s first Indigenous supreme court justice

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<span>Photograph: AAP</span>
Photograph: AAP

Barrister Lincoln Crowley QC will become the first Indigenous judge to preside over an Australian superior court, after he was appointed to the supreme court of Queensland.

Colleagues said Crowley, a well-regarded barrister and former crown prosecutor who was made Queen’s Counsel in 2018, had broken a significant barrier for First Nations people.

“It has taken a long time for Indigenous people in Australia to be appointed to any superior court and it’s very significant that Lincoln Crowley is the first such appointment,” said Tony McAvoy, who in 2015 became the first Indigenous Australian appointed senior counsel.

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“It is a matter of some significant shame and embarrassment for the legal professional in Australia that there are not more First Nations judicial officers through all levels of the court.

“I have watched Lincoln rise through his career and he’s always struck me as a very compassionate person and a fantastic lawyer and it comes as no surprise to me that the attorney-general of Queensland has appointed him to this position.”

Crowley, a Warramunga man, grew up in Charters Towers, near Townsville, and studied law at James Cook University. He told the Townsville Bulletin in 2018 he was expelled from a private school in year 11 after a run-in with a teacher.

“The deputy principal called me into the office one day and said to me: ‘Your family is Aboriginal aren’t they? They’re the type that end up in jail’,” he said.

“He was picking on me and trying to put me down, basically saying I had no prospects in the future and that’s where I was going to end up.

“I remember thinking, ‘you wait and see, mate’.”

At that point, Crowley said he “didn’t know anyone who had been to university, I didn’t know anything about law nor have any connection to it.”

After graduating, Crowley worked as a solicitor-advocate for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service. He was called to the bar in 2003 and has worked in Sydney and Brisbane.

Crowley has acted in several high-profile cases, including as the crown prosecutor of insider-trader Oliver Curtis, and Omar Succarieh, an Islamic bookshop owner who was convicted of foreign incursion charges. He was senior counsel assisting the disability royal commission.

The Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, said Crowley’s appointment was historic and “hopefully the sign of many more to come”.

The state’s attorney-general, Shannon Fentiman, said it was a “historic day”.

“The importance of ensuring that our judicial officers represent the diversity of our community cannot be understated,” Fentiman said.

“This appointment is significant, not only for First Nations Queenslanders but for the Queensland justice system.”

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