Law Foundation Report – Matthew Del Corso

I recently completed a four-week internship with MPS Law as part of the Aurora Internship Program. MPS Law is a boutique firm established by Mr Michael Pagsanjan in 2016.

The practice handles matter in native title, the national disability insurance scheme (NDIS), dispute resolution and strategic partnering. The practice has grown considerably in the past four years and now represents clients across Australia and the Torres Strait. I will look back on my time with MPS Law with fond memories.

Matthew Del Corso and Supervisor

Me and my supervisor, Mr Kai Sinor.

My involvement with native title

For many years, I have held an interest in native title and Indigenous legal issues. In July 2019, I was fortunate to attend a study tour with the University of Adelaide to the Northern Flinders Ranges. During this tour, I was exposed to the ongoing difficulties faced by native title holders in the area, in particular, the Adnyamathanha people. On the tour, we were fortunate to receive cultural talks and demonstrations from Adnyamathanha people at Iga Warta. Iga Warta is a cultural tourism centre set amongst the mountains of the Northern Flinders Ranges and is owned, managed and staffed by Indigenous peoples.

As an extension of this tour, I was invited to attend a subsequent visit to Iga Warta to assist fellow students to finalise a project to lobby for reform to the Pastoral Land Management and Conservation Act 1989 (SA). The lobbying project was a part of Clinical Legal Education, which I am currently studying. As part of this subject, I will be working with senior lecturer, Ms Margaret Castles and a group of students to return to Iga Warta or Leigh Creek. The purpose of the visit has not yet been finalised, however, I will be excited to share my experience in due course.

Further to the above, and with Ms Castle’s support, I am developing an application for a summer research project involving native title or dispute resolution. This proposal is still in the early stages of planning, but yet again, I will be excited to share the details of this in due course.

My time with MPS Law

I worked under the direction of senior lawyer, Mr Kai Sinor. Kai’s ambition and knowledge cannot be understated. Kai has a wealth of knowledge and experience in native title and the NDIS, having previously worked with the South Australian Native Title Services, the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations and the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission.

What immediately stood out to me in my first week with MPS Law is the trust the team has in one another. Even as the ‘new recruit’, I felt the team had complete faith in me and the actions I took to complete my tasks. This autonomy allowed me to develop solutions to problems which others may not have considered. Further, weekly team meetings ensured the team was aware of the development of client matters and the strategic direction of the practice. These meetings allowed me to see how the work I was completing fit into the ‘bigger picture’.

I was involved in a variety of tasks in my time at MPS Law. Kai’s guidance, support and feedback were instrumental in assisting me to produce work I was proud of.

One of the first tasks I was assigned was to produce a risk assessment document to be used by the solicitors when reviewing contracts for both Indigenous and commercial affairs. I was instructed to first review risk guidelines produced by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). The ISO’s guidelines contained considerations a solicitor should have regard to when reviewing a contract. I undertook additional research to ensure the checklist would assist the solicitors when reviewing contracts relevant to Indigenous matters.

The Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) requires native title rights to be vested in what is known as a registered native title body corporate (RNTBC). MPS Law represents a RNTBC who holds the the native title rights to an area in northern South Australia. I was tasked with preparing and filing a trademark application for the logo used by the RNTBC. This involved identifying the relevant classes of goods and services the corporation would require trademark protection in. I was responsible for filing the trademark application and for ensuring correspondence received from IP Australia was circulated. I had studied Intellectual Property Law the semester before joining MPS Law and this was an excellent way for me to gain practical experience with intellectual property.

MPS Law’s website is an excellent resource for anyone looking for information on native title, the NDIS and the firm’s other practice areas. The team produces regular articles and bulletins which can be found here. I was involved in producing three articles. The first was on the Disability Royal Commission’s Issues Paper into the experience of First Nations People with disability in Australia. The second and third articles were based on a recent Federal Court judgement which MPS Law has an interest in. This matter was Nona [1] and considered authorisation meetings and joinder of an Indigenous dissent group. I produced an article on each of these topics. I was unable to finalise the articles due to my internship ending, however the draft versions are currently in review.

Although not related to native title, I assisted in preparing a consultancy agreement for a client. I had never undertaken a task of such magnitude and I was initially overwhelmed by the requirements. With the support of Kai and through researching consultancy agreements, I was able to produce a document which, after undergoing a drafting process, was settled to be provided to the client.

Closing

I cannot understate my appreciation for my time with MPS Law. I must firstly thank the Aurora Foundation and Ms Ashanti Fogden for the organisation of the program and finding a placement for me despite the uncertainty of COVID-19.

Secondly, to the Law Foundation of South Australia for the Native Title Internship Scholarship. The funds received allowed me to manage my finances over the internship. A specific mention of appreciation must go to Ms Anne Hewitt for bringing the scholarship to my attention.

Finally, my greatest thanks must go to MPS Law. Both Mr Michael Pagsanjan and Mr Kai Sinor have been outstanding mentors – I have a great admiration for these two men. To all the staff at MPS Law who assisted me in all that I did, and for their unending support and friendliness, I thank you all. 

I encourage anyone interested in native title or Indigenous legal affairs to apply for the Aurora Foundation’s 2020/21 Summer Internship Program. For more information, please see the Aurora Internship website.

If you have any questions on my time with MPS Law or other inquiries, feel free to contact me at matthewdelcorso@gmail.com.


[1] Nona on behalf of the Badu People (Warral & Ului) v State of Queensland [2020] FCA 983. At [39] my supervisor, Mr Kai Sinor is mentioned!

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