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Before she finished up law school at the University of Western Australia in Perth, Rowena Leslie wanted an educational experience outside of her country. A member of the Wongutha aboriginal group, she had long been interested in Australian indigenous issues and was attracted to the Southwest Indian Law Clinic for the perspective it would provide.
She arrived in mid-January with her husband, who is studying in the UNM College of Education, for a semester of study at the UNM School of Law. This is the first exchange between the two schools.
In the clinic, she jumped in, interviewing clients, filing motions and even appearing in state district court, appreciating the hands-on opportunity.
"There is no similar program back home, so this is a great experience," she says.
Leslie, who is from Kalgoorlie in the Goldfields Region of Western Australia, has been enjoying community law, which she had not been exposed to back home; she has been preparing for a career in corporate law.
In addition to the clinic, she is taking Federal Indian Law and is auditing an ethics course. A project she is completing that compares federal Indian law in the U.S. to aboriginal rights and the legal system in Australia will be the topic of a presentation she will make at an aboriginal legal conference in Melbourne this fall.
"It has been interesting to discover that there is much more case law here, a reflection that American Indians were recognized much earlier than aboriginal people were in Australia," she says.
Leslie has been adjusting to the interactive teaching method in her classes; back home the only person who talks in class is the professor.
"I like this method; it helps you think about what you are being taught," she says.
Noting that she has never lived anywhere as cold as Albuquerque, she and her husband have been enjoying the novelty of snow, even spending a weekend skiing in Colorado.