Social justice and the pursuit of a fair go
The didgeridoos in Joshua Creamer’s 18th floor office are far from ornamental. They are a proud link to the heritage of this Waanyi and Kalkadoon man.
His Brisbane legal office is a long way from his early childhood in Mt Isa and later Yeppoon, where each day after school and at weekends he worked at the local butcher shop.
Joshua is only one of about a dozen Aboriginal barristers practising in Australia, and is recognised in the prestigious Doyle’s Guide to the Australian Legal profession as a Leading Junior Counsel in Native Title Law.
“There’s a satisfying feeling in being an Indigenous person acting for other Indigenous people. There have been a couple of occasions where I’ve had contact with members of native title claim groups and there’s a real appreciation on their behalf and a real satisfaction to see a young indigenous guy being part of the legal process for them,” said the Griffith University law graduate.
Today he is part of legal team heading up a class action case against the Queensland Government to recover ‘stolen wages’—wages that went either unpaid or underpaid from 1900 to the 1970s.
Some circles are likening this case to as being as important as the Mabo decision.
Joshua has also been an outspoken critic of the youth detention system—a system in which indigenous youth were 26 times more likely to be in detention than non-Indigenous youth, according to a 2016 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report.
Joshua’s venture into law came after he completed his butcher’s apprenticeship, a job he grabbed with both hands knowing the prospects for youth employment in a regional area were less than rosy.
However, it was as a delegate at the Oxfam International Youth Parliament for thee years where he joined more than 300 youth from around the world that his passion for social justice was ignited—a passion that is a hallmark of his family.
“For the first time I heard words like sustainability and social justice and there were young people which had the same interests I had and I hadn’t had that connection before. Growing up in Central Queensland it’s all about footy and those types of things.
“I remember a young man, for example, who was educating women in Afghanistan, in the face of the Taliban and another in Pakistan who had taken $20 and turned it into a sustainable farm project for the community. These were inspirational, great people to be around.”
He was later invited to attend the 2007 youth parliament as a facilitator and mentor, helping run the Parliament’s third sitting. He also was involved in the International Youth Leadership Event and the Brooklyn Event.
Social justice is important to the family. His mum, Sandra, is also a lawyer, completing her degree after Joshua had graduated from Griffith.
“She is a human rights lawyer and has done a lot of work particularly, internationally,” he says proudly of her achievements.
In visits to Mt Isa working on the stolen wages case, Joshua met with aunties and uncles, gaining a better understanding of his family unit.
“There is a strong focus on social justice, there is strong focus on work and success. I look around and at my generation, my cousins, there are lawyers, doctors, business people, university graduates.
“There is just a strength within the family. For me, my mother was a huge part of that; instilling those values onto us as children.”
Joshua has become a role model for Indigenous youth, speaking to thousands of children urging them to aim high. One of his favourite times was working alongside Preston Campbell, an Indigenous statesman and driving force behind the annual Indigenous All-Stars NRL match.
In 2008, Joshua was awarded Griffith University’s Rubin Hurricane Carter Award for Commitment to Social Justice. He is also member of the Australian Rugby League Indigenous Council.
As a former president of the Indigenous Lawyers Association of Queensland, and an organizer of the World Indigenous Legal Conference, one of his goals is to create opportunities.
“When I think back to high school, the expectations on me were pretty low from some of the teachers. At the end of Year 10, it was suggested that I should leave school and pursue my apprenticeship. Fortunately, I didn’t follow that advice from the Deputy Principal.
“If we can create opportunities now, hopefully in 10 years times or in 20 years time, people will benefit. And those people who do benefit might never know you existed. If I really could achieve outcomes it’s that.”
But, perhaps one of his proudest moments will come when he gets to admit his mum to the Supreme Court in Queensland – making mother and son the first two Indigenous people from one family admitted to practice in the Supreme Court.