Geetaanjli Sidhu has a fearless way of throwing herself into things, like the way she commutes to town on her bike, and takes on epic cycling tours in Europe. Sidhu isn’t flustered by spelling out her name for me either, noting how often it’s been abbreviated to Geeta, and, now even, Geet.
Sidhu is a solicitor at Norman Waterhouse Lawyers, a commercial law firm that practices in the private sector and focuses on Native Title; the law doctrine that involves disputes of Aboriginal title and rights to traditional ownership of real property.
With her colleagues, Sidhu works to serve a range of clients, often acting as an interface between Indigenous communities and government. For Sidhu “there are so many layers to this practice”, and notes that she is “expanding her body of knowledge all the time”, seeing Native Title as a specialisation that sits at the “cross roads and which encompasses mining law, corporate law, property law and environmental law”.
Although Sidhu believes “you must divorce romance from the issues”, she also sees Native Title as a practice that “links anthropology to policy”. It is the human side of her work that fascinates her, especially how culture is so powerful in building ideas of ownership.
During her Bachelor of Laws and Legal Practice-Graduate studies, Sidhu was inspired by the anthropologist Dr Deane Fergie and her research into Indigenous affairs. Sidhu realised there was “a whole world out there that needed to be acknowledged and understood”, and she wanted to pursue a career examining the role of Law in this process.
Sidhu became involved in the Aurora Project, a federal government initiative that allows students to “undertake training placements specific to Indigenous affairs” completing clerkships with Andrew Collett AM and at Johnston Withers Lawyers. During this time, Sidhu made her first visits to Country, meeting with the Yalata Community to providing advice to Maralinga Tjarutja Council.
Family heritage plays a role in Sidhu’s approach to her work and compassion. Sidhu says she has “never stayed in her geographic comfort zone”, being born in Scotland to Punjabi Indian parents and then migrating to Adelaide in 1989. Stories from her grandparents fleeing across the disputed border of newly created Pakistan into India in 1947 have imprinted on her. Sidhu feels deeply that such human struggles are comparable to the fight for Native Title.
Part time work in International Student Services prior to completing her studies gave Sidhu insight into working with people of varied nationalities; an experience that influences her work today as a solicitor. She fondly remembers years working at Adelaide Central Market, which also inspires Sidhu, who says that you really “appreciate community in such a space”.
Leo Greenfield is a freelance illustrator