|Larissa Yasmin Behrendt|
Larissa Behrendt at work, 2012
Larissa Yasmin Behrendt (born 1 April 1969) is an Australian academic and writer. She is currently a Professor of Indigenous Research and Director of Research at the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning at the University of Technology, Sydney.
Early life and education
Behrendt was raised in the Sutherland Shire in the South of Sydney. Her Mother was an Accountant and her father was an Air Traffic Controller and later, an Aboriginal Studies Academic. He was appointed Director of the Aboriginal Research and Resource Centre at the University of New South Wales, Sydney in 1988, around the time when Behrendt commenced studying there. She completed a Bachelor of Jurisprudence and Bachelor of Laws degree at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in 1992. In the same year, she was admitted by the Supreme Court of New South Wales to practise as a solicitor. Behrendt then travelled on a scholarship to the United States, where she completed a Master of Laws at Harvard Law School in 1994, and a Doctor of Juridical Science from the same institution in 1998. Behrendt was the first indigenous Australian to graduate from Harvard Law School.
After graduating from Harvard Law School, Behrendt also worked in Canada for a year with a range of First Nations organisations. In 1999, she worked with the Assembly of First Nations in developing a gender equality policy, and she also represented the Assembly at the United Nations. The same year she did a study for the Slavey people comparing native title developments in Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
Since 1998, Behrendt has been a member of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), and was appointed to the Institute's Research Advisory Council in 2000. In 2000, she was admitted by the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory to practise as a barrister. Behrendt is a republican, opposing the institution of monarchy in Australia. She is also a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences of Australia (ASSA) and a Foundation Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law (AAL).
In April 2011, Behrendt was appointed to chair The Review of Higher Education Access and Outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People for the federal government. The Review,tasked with providing a roadmap for indigenous university education, delivered its report in September 2012 and received a widely positive response for its emphasis on achievable parity targets and the re-allocation of existing resources to support meaningful outcomes such as "fostering a 'professional class' of indigenous graduates."
Behrendt has written extensively on legal and Indigenous social justice issues. Her books include Aboriginal Dispute Resolution (1995), and Achieving Social Justice (2003),. In 2005 she was the co-author of the book Treaty.
Behrendt has also written two works of fiction: a novel, Home, which won the Queensland Premier's Literary Awards; the David Unaipon Award in 2002; and the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Novel in the south-east Asian/South Pacific region in 2005. Her second novel Legacy, won the Victorian Premier's Literary Award for Prize for Indigenous Writing (2010).
In 2012, Larissa Behrendt published Indigenous Australia For Dummies.
Work in the arts
Behrendt has played an active role in creating and supporting arts organisations and initiatives and is a consistent advocate of increased funding for the arts. In 2007, Behrendt was the inaugural chair of National Indigenous Television, the first broadcast television network in Australia dedicated to indigenous programming.
Behrendt has served on the board of The Sydney Writers Festival. She is currently on the board of the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia and chairs their Indigenous Advisory Panel. In 2008, Behrendt was appointed to the board of the Bangarra Dance Theatre and has been the chair since 2010.
Behrendt was appointed to the board of Museums and Galleries NSW in 2012.
Work in education
Larissa Behrendt has been active in issues around Indigenous education including literacy. In 2002, Behrendt was the co-recipient of the inaugural Neville Bonner National Teaching Award. Behrendt has served on the board of Tranby Aboriginal College in Glebe. Behrendt is currently the ambassador for the Gawura Campus at St. Andrew's Cathedral School. She was a founder and is currently a director of The Sydney Story Factory which recently has established a literacy program in Redfern.
In April 2011, Behrendt was appointed to chair The Review of Higher Education Access and Outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People for the federal government. The Review,tasked with providing a roadmap for indigenous university education, delivered its report in September 2012 and received a widely positive response for its emphasis on achievable parity targets and the re-allocation of existing resources to support meaningful outcomes such as "fostering a 'professional class' of indigenous graduates." In releasing the report on 14 September 2012, Senator Chris Evans, Minister for Tertiary Education, accepted all of its recommendations.
Community and legal work
Behrendt is the director of the St. George Women's Housing Inc. From 2009 to 2012, she co-chaired the City of Sydney's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Panel. Behrendt is an active member of the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council.
Behrendt has been involved in several pro bono test cases involving adverse treatment of Aboriginal peoples in the criminal justice system, including appearing as junior counsel in the NSW Supreme Court case of Campbell and 4 Ors v Director of Public Prosecutions . Behrendt worked inside the NSW prison system between 2003 to 2012 in her role as Alternative Chair of the Serious Offenders Review Council. She has also held judicial positions on the Administrative Decisions Tribunal (Equal Opportunity Division) and as a Land Commissioner on the Land and Environment Court.
Deadwood tweet and subsequent controversy
Comments made by Behrendt on the website Twitter that appeared to disparage Northern Territory Member of the Legislative Assembly, Territory Minister, and Aboriginal elder Bess Price have been the subject of ongoing controversy despite Behrendt's continued insistence that the tweet was taken out of context. Behrendt maintains that she was referring not to Price personally, but to the acrimonious tenor of a debate on the television program Q&A. While watching TV series Deadwood, Behrendt replied to a comment on the social media site that had expressed outrage about Price's support for the Northern Territory intervention, writing "I watched a show where a guy had sex with a horse and I'm sure it was less offensive than Bess Price."
Behrendt apologised both publicly and privately to Mrs. Price, who has not formally accepted her apology but said the comment showed Behrendt was out of touch with rural Aborigines. Behrendt has said that the throwaway comment has made her a target for a campaign of character assassination. Several journalists have gone on record supporting this assessment, most notably Robert Manne. This campaign has subsequently been characterised as a coordinated response to a court case in which Behrendt and eight others was simultaneously involved against News Corp.
Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt used Behrendt's name in two controversial articles about "political" Aborigines. Bolt asserted that Behrendt and other fair-skinned Aborigines claimed aboriginality to advance their careers. The Australian court system has since ruled that the articles were inflammatory, offensive and contravened the Racial Discrimination Act.
In 1993, Behrendt was the winner of the Lionel Murphy Foundation Scholarship. In 2002, Behrendt was the co-recipient of the inaugural Neville Bonner National Teaching Award. She was the 2004 Deadly Award winner for literature.
Behrendt had a long-term relationship with Geoff Scott, a senior Indigenous bureaucrat, who was a former CEO of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) and is currently the CEO of NSW Aboriginal Land Council. In 2009, Behrendt began a relationship with Michael Lavarch, former Attorney-General of Australia and they married in 2011.
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- Bianca Hall (21 March 2012). "Call for doubling of Aboriginal university student numbers". The Sydney Morning Herald.
- Behrendt, Larissa (1995). Aboriginal dispute resolution: a step towards self-determination and community autonomy. Federation Press. ISBN 1-86287-178-7.
- Behrendt, Larissa (2003). Achieving social justice : indigenous rights and Australia's future. Federation Press. ISBN 1-86287-450-6.
- "Sean Brennan | UNSW LAW". Law.unsw.edu.au.
- Behrendt, Larissa (2004). Home. University of Queensland Press. ISBN 0-7022-3407-9.
- Behrendt, Larissa (2009). Home. University of Queensland Press. ISBN 978-0-7022-3733-1.
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- John Huxley (7 May 2011). "Long life of a throwaway tweet". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 21 May 2011
- "The Australian and Robert Manne's Quarterly Essay: The Oz defends". Crikey. 14 September 2011.
- "Larissa Behrendt repents for Twitter slur on black leader Bess Price". The Australian. 15 April 2011.
- "Bad News: Murdoch's Australian and the Shaping of the Nation". The Quarterly Essay.
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- "Larissa Behrendt". Australian Public Intellectual Network. Archived from the original on 22 July 2005. Retrieved 16 November 2005.
- "Larissa Behrendt". Vibe Australia. Archived from the original on 24 October 2005. Retrieved 16 November 2005.
- Malcolm Knox (18 September 2010). "Lunch with Larissa Behrendt". The Sydney Morning Herald.
- Behrendt, Larissa in The Encyclopedia of Women and Leadership in Twentieth-Century Australia