Larissa Behrendt

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Larissa Behrendt

Larissa Behrendt at work 2012.jpg
Behrendt at work in 2012
Larissa Yasmin Behrendt

1969 (age 51–52)
Alma materUniversity of New South Wales
Harvard Law School

Larissa Yasmin Behrendt AO FASSA (born 1969) is a legal academic, writer, filmmaker and Indigenous rights advocate. As of 2020 she is a Professor of Law and Director of Research and Academic Programs at the Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research at the University of Technology Sydney, and holds the inaugural Chair in Indigenous Research.

Early life and education[edit]

Behrendt was born in Cooma, New South Wales, in 1969, Her mother, who was non-Indigenous, worked in naval intelligence, while her father was an air traffic controller and later an Aboriginal Studies academic. He established the Aboriginal Research and Resource Centre at the University of New South Wales, Sydney in 1988, around the time when Behrendt commenced studying there.[1]

After attending Kirrawee High School,[1] Behrendt completed a Bachelor of Jurisprudence and Bachelor of Laws degree at the University of New South Wales in 1992.[2] In the same year, she was admitted by the Supreme Court of New South Wales to practise as a solicitor.[citation needed] After a stint of working in family law and legal aid, she travelled on a scholarship to the United States,[1] 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.[2] Behrendt was the first indigenous Australian to graduate from Harvard Law School.

She also earned a Graduate Diploma in Screenwriting (2012) and Graduate Diploma in Documentary (2013) at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School (AFTRS), and is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (2013).[2]


Legal and academic[edit]

After graduating from Harvard Law School in the mid 1990s, Behrendt 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 represented the Assembly at the United Nations.[3] The same year, she did a study for the Slavey people comparing native title developments in Australia, Canada and New Zealand.[citation needed]

Behrendt returned to Australia to become a postdoctoral researcher at the Australian National University, moving to University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) in 2000.[1] 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.[citation needed]

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 v Director of Public Prosecutions [2008].[4] She worked inside the NSW prison system between 2003 and 2012 in her role as Alternative Chair of the Serious Offenders Review Council.[5] 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.[6][7]

Current positions[edit]

As of 2020 she is a Professor of Law and Director of Research and Academic Programs[8] at the Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research at the University of Technology Sydney, and holds the inaugural Chair in Indigenous Research. She is also a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia and a Foundation Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law.[9]

Other work[edit]

In education and community[edit]

Behrendt has been active in issues around Indigenous education including literacy. In 2002, she was the co-recipient of the inaugural Neville Bonner National Teaching Award.[10] She has served on the board of Tranby Aboriginal College in Glebe, Sydney and has been ambassador for the Gawura Campus (an Indigenous primary school) of St Andrew's Cathedral School since at least 2012.[11][12] She was a founder of the Sydney Story Factory in 2012, which established a literacy program in Redfern.[13][2]

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".[14] In releasing the report on 14 September 2012, Senator Chris Evans, Minister for Tertiary Education, accepted all of its recommendations.[15]

From 2009 to 2012, she co-chaired the City of Sydney's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Panel.[16]

In the arts[edit]

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.[17] She was the inaugural chair of National Indigenous Television (NITV), the first broadcast television network in Australia dedicated to Indigenous programming,[18] from 2006 to 2009.[2]

In 2008, she was appointed to the board of the Bangarra Dance Theatre and was Chair from 2010[19] 20 2014.[2] She was appointed to the board of Museums and Galleries NSW in 2012,[20] a role which continues as of 2020.[2]

Behrendt has served on the board of the Sydney Writers' Festival[21] since 2015, the board of the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, chairing their Indigenous Advisory Panel[22] (2007–2012).[2]

She was a board member of the Australian Major Performing Arts Group (AMPAG) from 2013 to 2014, was a judge of non-fiction on the New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards (2013–2014) and has been a member of the Australia Council Major Performing Arts Panel since 2015.[2]


Behrendt has written extensively on legal and Indigenous social justice issues. Her books include Aboriginal Dispute Resolution (1995)[23] and Achieving Social Justice (2003).[24] In 2005 she co-authored the book Treaty.[25]

Behrendt has also written two works of fiction, including a novel, Home,[26] 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,[27] won the Victorian Premier's Literary Award for Prize for Indigenous Writing (2010).[2]

In 2012, Behrendt published Indigenous Australia For Dummies.[28]


Behrendt has written, directed, and/or produced a number of documentary films since 2013, including Innocence Betrayed (2013, writer) In My Blood It Runs (2019, producer) and Maralinga Tjarutja (2020, writer), the latter about the British nuclear tests at Maralinga in South Australia.[29] She was Indigenous consultant for the TV documentary miniseries Australia: The Story of Us in 2015, Who do you think you are? (2018–2019) and other projects.[2]

In 2016 Behrendt (as director) Michaela Perske (producer) and were awarded the Indigenous Feature Documentary Initiative funding by the Adelaide Film Festival in conjunction with Screen Australia and KOJO to work on their feature documentary project, After the Apology,[30][31] and on 9 October 2017, AFF held the world première of the resulting film.[32] The film looks at the increase in Indigenous child removal in the years following Kevin Rudd's Apology to Australia's Indigenous peoples.[33] It won Best Direction of a Documentary Feature Film from the Australian Directors Guild in 2018, and was nominated in three categories in the 2018 AACTA Awards, including Best Direction in Nonfiction Television.[34][35]

Behrendt directed Maralinga Tjarutja,[36] a May 2020 television documentary made by Blackfella Films for ABC Television, which tells the story of the people of Maralinga, South Australia, since the 1950s British nuclear tests at Maralinga. It was deliberately broadcast around the same time that the drama series Operation Buffalo was on, to give voice to the Indigenous people of the area and show how it disrupted their lives.[37][38] Screenhub gave it 4.5 stars, calling it an "excellent documentary".[39] The film shows the resilience of the Maralinga Tjarutja people,[40] and how they have continued to fight for their rights to look after the contaminated land.[41]

As of 2020 Behrendt is working on writing for Season 2 of Total Control (TV series),[2] and as writer/director on a documentary film entitled The Fight Together.[29]


Behrendt presents radio programme Speaking Out, covering "politics, arts and culture from a range of Indigenous perspectives". As of September 2020 it broadcasts on ABC Radio National on Fridays at 8pm and on ABC Local Radio, including ABC Radio Sydney, on Sundays at 9pm.[42]


Personal life[edit]

Behrendt married US artist Kris Faller[47] in 1997 while at Harvard. They separated amicably in 2001 and were later divorced.[3]

She had a long-term relationship with Geoff Scott, a senior Indigenous bureaucrat, former CEO of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, and current CEO of NSW Aboriginal Land Council.[48]

In 2009, Behrendt began a relationship with Michael Lavarch, former Attorney-General of Australia; they married in 2011.[49]



  • Home, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia, QLD, 2004, ISBN 0702234079
  • Legacy, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia, QLD, 2009, ISBN 9780702237331

Short Stories[edit]

  • The Space Between Us, in Behrendt et al., 10 short stories you must read in 2011, the Australia Council for the Arts, Australia, 2011, ISBN 9780733628481, Chapter 3:pp47-67

Children's fiction[edit]


  • Aboriginal Dispute Resolution: A step towards self-determination and community autonomy, Federation Press, Leichhardt, NSW 1995, ISBN 1862871787 [50]
  • Achieving social justice: indigenous rights and Australia's future, Federation Press, Annandale, NSW, 2003, ISBN 1862874506
  • Resolving Indigenous Disputes: Land conflict and beyond, co-authored with Loretta Kelly, Federation Press, Leichhardt, NSW, 2008, ISBN 9781862877078
  • Indigenous Australia for Dummies, John Wiley & Sons, Milton, QLD, 2012, ISBN 9781742169637
  • Rabbit-proof Fence, Currency Press, Sydney, NSW, 2012, ISBN 9780868199108
  • Finding Eliza: Power and colonial storytelling, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia, QLD, 2016, ISBN 9780702253904

2011 tweet storm and Eatock v Bolt[edit]

Comments made by Behrendt on Twitter that appeared to disparage Northern Territory Member of the Legislative Assembly, Territory Minister, and Aboriginal elder Bess Price caused controversy despite Behrendt's continued insistence that the tweet was taken out of context.[51][52] She maintains that she was referring not to Price, but to the acrimonious tenor of a debate on the television program Q+A. Behrendt had replied to a Twitter comment 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", referring to TV series Deadwood. Behrendt apologised both publicly and privately to Price, who did not formally accept her apology.[51][53] Behrendt said that the throwaway comment has made her a target for a campaign of character assassination,[51] with several commentators agreeing, most notably Robert Manne.[52][54] The Australian published 15 stories on Behrendt within two weeks of the tweet.[55]

The disparagement of Behrendt was subsequently characterised as a coordinated response to a court case in which she and eight others were simultaneously involved against News Corp,[54] known as Eatock v Bolt. Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt had used Behrendt's name in two articles about "political" Aboriginal people. Bolt asserted that Behrendt and other fair-skinned Aboriginal people claimed Aboriginality to advance their careers.[56] The Federal Court ruled that the articles were inflammatory, offensive and contravened the Racial Discrimination Act.[57][58]


  1. ^ a b c d Standish, Anne (2014). Behrendt, Larissa. The Encyclopedia of Women and Leadership in Twentieth-Century Australia. Australian Women's Archives Project 2014. ISBN 978-0-7340-4873-8. Retrieved 12 September 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "About Me". Larissa Behrendt. Retrieved 12 September 2020.
  3. ^ a b "Lunch with Larissa Behrendt". The Sydney Morning Herald. 17 September 2010. Retrieved 12 September 2020.
  4. ^ Campbell v Director of Public Prosecutions (NSW) [2008] NSWSC 1284.
  5. ^ [1] Archived 26 September 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "Equal Opportunity Division – Administrative Decisions Tribunal New South Wales". 16 May 2012.
  7. ^ "Homepage – Land & Environment Court". Lawlink NSW. Archived from the original on 28 January 2013. Retrieved 8 October 2012.
  8. ^ a b "Honour is 'truly humbling' for social justice trailblazer". University of Technology Sydney. 26 January 2020. Retrieved 12 September 2020.
  9. ^ "Our Director - Distinguished Professor Larissa Behrendt". University of Technology Sydney. 9 September 2019. Retrieved 12 September 2020.
  10. ^ a b "Office for Learning and Teaching | Welcome".[permanent dead link]
  11. ^ "St Andrew's Cathedral School". 21 June 2012. Archived from the original on 29 July 2012. Retrieved 8 October 2012.
  12. ^ "Our Story: Our ambassadors". Gawura. Retrieved 14 September 2020.
  13. ^ "Creative Centre opens". City East Region News;
  14. ^ Bianca Hall (21 March 2012). "Call for doubling of Aboriginal university student numbers". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  15. ^ "Higher education blueprint to boost Indigenous graduates". 14 September 2012. Archived from the original on 4 October 2012.
  16. ^ "Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Advisory Panel". City of Sydney. Archived from the original on 27 November 2012.
  17. ^ Behrendt, Larissa (5 September 2012). "Why the Arts should be funded". Archived from the original on 11 April 2013.
  18. ^ Mark, David (13 July 2007). "National Indigenous Television launched in Sydney". ABC Radio (The World Today). Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original (transcript) on 11 May 2017.
  19. ^ "Larissa Behrendt; Bangarra Dance Theatre". Bangarra.
  20. ^ "The Cranlana Programme". Archived from the original on 21 February 2013. Retrieved 8 October 2012.
  21. ^ "Larissa Behrendt – The Drum Opinion (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on 22 November 2012. Retrieved 8 October 2012.
  22. ^ "Larissa Behrendt". Q+A. 20 December 2018. Retrieved 12 September 2020.
  23. ^ Behrendt, Larissa (1995). Aboriginal dispute resolution: a step towards self-determination and community autonomy. Federation Press. ISBN 1-86287-178-7.
  24. ^ Behrendt, Larissa (2003). Achieving social justice : indigenous rights and Australia's future. Federation Press. ISBN 1-86287-450-6.
  25. ^ "Sean Brennan | UNSW LAW".
  26. ^ Behrendt, Larissa (2004). Home. University of Queensland Press. ISBN 0-7022-3407-9.
  27. ^ Behrendt, Larissa (2009). Home. University of Queensland Press. ISBN 978-0-7022-3733-1.
  28. ^ "Hard stuff made easy – The West Australian". Yahoo! News. Archived from the original on 5 January 2013. Retrieved 21 September 2012.
  29. ^ a b "Larissa Behrendt". IMDb. Retrieved 12 September 2020.
  30. ^ "Female Producer and Director Team Receive $738,000 to Make Landmark Documentary About Child Removal". Adelaide Film Festival. 19 August 2016. Retrieved 11 September 2020.
  31. ^ "Female producer and director team receive funding to make landmark documentary about child removal". Screen Australia. 19 August 2016. Retrieved 11 September 2020.
  32. ^ "After the Apology (2017): Release Info". IMDb. Retrieved 11 September 2020.
  33. ^ "Director Larissa Behrendt - After the Apology- a landmark documentary about child removal". Screen NSW. Retrieved 11 September 2020.
  34. ^ a b "After The Apology". Adelaide Film Festival. 5 July 2020. Retrieved 11 September 2020.
  35. ^ a b "After the Apology (2017)". Screen Australia. Retrieved 11 September 2020.
  36. ^ Maralinga Tjarutja (2020) at IMDb
  37. ^ "When the dust settles, culture remains: Maralinga Tjarutja". Australian Government. 22 May 2020. Retrieved 13 September 2020.
  38. ^ "Maralinga Tjarutja". ABC iview. 6 March 2018. Retrieved 13 September 2020.
  39. ^ Campbell, Mel (11 June 2020). "TV Review: Maralinga Tjarutja paints a full picture". screenhub Australia. Retrieved 13 September 2020.
  40. ^ Broderick, Mick (4 June 2020). "Sixty years on, two TV programs revisit Australia's nuclear history at Maralinga". The Conversation. Retrieved 13 September 2020.
  41. ^ Marsh, Walter (22 May 2020). "The story of Maralinga is much more than a period drama". The Adelaide Review. Retrieved 13 September 2020.
  42. ^ "Speaking Out, with Larissa Behrendts". ABC Radio. Retrieved 14 September 2020.
  43. ^ "Lionel Murphy Postgraduate Scholars".
  44. ^ "2004 Deadly Award Winners | Vibe Australia". 11 August 2008. Archived from the original on 30 December 2012.
  45. ^ "Winners profiles". NAIDOC. 26 January 1972. Archived from the original on 15 November 2012.
  46. ^ "Australian of the Year Awards". Archived from the original on 23 June 2011.
  47. ^ Kris Faller
  48. ^ "issue: can we really have it all? | Madison". 12 August 2009. Archived from the original on 2 March 2011.
  49. ^ Private Media (27 January 2012). "Power players Lavarch, Eddington and Bell recognised in Aus Day gongs". Archived from the original on 27 October 2012.
  50. ^ Behrendt, Larissa (1995). Aboriginal Dispute Resolution: A Step Towards Self-determination and Community Autonomy. ISBN 9781862871786.
  51. ^ a b c Huxley, John (6 May 2011). "Long life of a throwaway tweet". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 12 September 2020.
  52. ^ a b "The Australian and Robert Manne's Quarterly Essay: The Oz defends". Crikey. 14 September 2011.
  53. ^ "Larissa Behrendt repents for Twitter slur on black leader Bess Price". The Australian. 15 April 2011.
  54. ^ a b "Bad News: Murdoch's Australian and the Shaping of the Nation". The Quarterly Essay.
  55. ^ Brull, Michael (18 September 2011). "Sex with a horse: getting done over by The Australian". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 13 September 2020.
  56. ^ "It's so hip to be black" by Andrew Bolt, Herald Sun, 15 April 2009
  57. ^ Eatock v Bolt [2011] FCA 1103, (2011) 197 FCR 261, Federal Court (Australia).
  58. ^ "Bolt loses high-profile race case". The Sydney Morning Herald. 28 September 2011.


External links[edit]

After the Apology[edit]