Terri Janke

Posted 23 Jan 17

What makes you proud to be an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander woman? 

Many things make me proud, the connection to Country, the strong respect for ancestry and place; but most of all I am proud of the resilience of Indigenous people. The generosity of Indigenous people and the connections we have with each other are also things that make me feel empowered. I am inspired every day to spread the message of Indigenous excellence to the world. And I am proud to see the many young Indigenous people doing great and amazing things, like Kalinya founder Jirra.

You started your own law firm Terri Janke and Company before there was an Aboriginal business industry, how did you find the confidence? 

It was not easy. I just had to find the belief in myself and back myself to take those first steps. Then, I was supported by my family and my community. I had a lot of passion which fuelled me on. It was about rights and access to law in a new area. I saw that there was a clear gap in the law and that provided me with the foundation for my firm. No other firms dealt with Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property and so I wrote Our Culture: Our Future, which outlined protocols that businesses could use when working with Indigenous communities. This also helped build my confidence.

I moved the firm into advising businesses. Our existing clients started growing and with that we could provide them an even wider variety of services. We are seen as the Indigenous preferred law firm. In 2011 I was awarded NAIDOC Person of the Year. This reaffirmed the support I receive from my community.

When Supply Nation was founded, this brought a whole new range of corporate clients to the table and the support for Indigenous businesses was stronger. Procurement policies also encourage government clients to move away from their usual suppliers and look at Indigenous businesses.

What are your areas of specialty? 

My firm is a Commercial Law firm, although we specialise in Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property. This revolves around creating protocols for businesses that seek the use of Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property in a culturally appropriate and ethical way.

We also provide educational workshops. Our True Tracks Workshops educate corporate, government and Indigenous businesses on Intellectual Property law and our Ten Step True Tracks Protocol, which is a best practice that should be applied when working with Indigenous people and communities. Our Law Way Workshops educate people on building a business, working with the Indigenous Procurement Policy and helps them understand Joint Ventures and Contracts.

People come to us because they trust us to not just interpret the law or solve a problem by a legal means, but to understand the wider issues to give a holistic solution.

You are a role model to so many Aboriginal women, who are some of your role models?

My Mum is a great role model to me. She is patient, persistent and full of love. She taught us to be proud of our Indigenous heritage and to set our goals and work towards them.

I am inspired by Aboriginal women trailblazers; like Pat O’Shane, Lowitja O’Donoghue, Linda Burney and Marcia Langton. And Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men, like Judge Bellear the first Indigenous judge and Aden Ridgeway since he was a Senator. I also have many non-Indigenous role models. Turia Pitt, my niece, Anne Sherry, Carnivale and Danny Gilbert, owner of Gilbert and Tobin, just to name a few. I could go on about this because I see inspiration in many people.

You, your sister Toni Janke, and your brother John Paul Janke are all trailblazers, can you tell us about your upbringing? 

John Paul, my older sister Toni and I grew up in Cairns in the 1970s when there was not much expectation for an Indigenous kids future. My parents moved to Canberra and worked in the public service. We came from a family that valued knowledge, books and arguing your point of view. We had parents that encouraged us and opened our minds to the opportunities.

What are some of the industry changes you have seen in the time you have been practicing?  

I have been practicing for 22 years now, one of the most promising changes is the increasing number of Indigenous lawyers that I have seen graduate.  But many do not practice. The shift for Indigenous peoples legal needs has also grown wider – they are seeking legal help around leases, shareholders deeds and much more. With the growth of Indigenous businesses, we are meeting this legal need.

There has also been the heavy shift in digitalisation. Marketing can be done through social media, you can hold skype meetings, and everything is done on the cloud. To meet that need and that audience we also created our Law Way YouTube channel.

What are some of the most important legal considerations that Aboriginal small business and artists should be considering?  

There are so many. But the most important consideration is to get legal advice before you sign or enter into a key transaction so you can clearly understand the implications and set up a strategy for managing risk. We have a YouTube channel and we produce in-house content that offers Indigenous businesses and artists advice. We cover important legal issues such as ‘Non-Disclosure Agreements’, ‘Copyright’, ‘Founder’s Agreements’, ‘Choosing the Legal Structure for your Business’ and a lot more.

Watch Terri’s TED Talk here:
True Tracks: create a culture of innovation with Indigenous knowledge | Terri Janke | TEDxJCUCairns