Rural, Regional, Remote Law — Rewarding legal careers in rural, regional and remote Australia

Julia Barber

Julia Barber is a sole practitioner in the Top End town of Broome, Western Australia. Julia deals with clients across a multitude of different areas of law and has clients spread throughout Australia.

She loves the outback lifestyle of Broome and is particularly fond of local camping hot spots and the internationally famous Cable Beach.

How did you come to be practising law in Broome?

I was a solicitor in Melbourne and my husband had previously been a road train driver throughout remote parts of northern Australia, and he decided he wanted to get back to doing what he loved which involved living and working at cattle stations. We had two small children, who were two and four, and ended up giving the new lifestyle a go. I had another child whilst living up there and we eventually moved to Broome to give them access to other children and for us to enjoy a bit of beach life style. We intended to stay for a month or two! We stayed and after two years of doing other things, I took up practising law again.

Why do you enjoy practising law in Broome?

I enjoy practising law in Broome because the law is so varied. You are able to practise in different areas and, at times, jurisdictions, which means you’re learning each and every day and it also keeps you really fresh in your job‚ you don’t get bored or complacent.

I have clients throughout Australia and practise in many areas of law including family law, criminal law, civil litigation, personal injuries, estate planning, probate, conveyancing and commercial law.

Having experienced work in both a metropolitan city and remote area of Australia, what aspects of your lifestyle did you find required adjusting?

Everything! Professionally, it’s very challenging. You’re thinking on your feet all the time and you’re constantly hopping in and out of different areas of law. Sometimes I might see eight clients, with each of them requiring advice in a different area of law, whereas in the larger cities like Melbourne you’re generally practising in just one area.

Personally, there is a really strong sense of community in Broome. The area affords you to be flexible, so, for example, if you have children, it’s much easier to work around them.

You’re also able to form some really strong friendships living in a tight knit community like Broome. The people here are very good to each other: if people are sick you often find others dropping around a casserole for example, and I suspect that’s not so much the norm in cities these days. You get to meet some really interesting people and have a great social life.

What have you found to be the most rewarding part of working in Broome?

Working for myself; while it’s extremely challenging, it’s yours‚ and you really do make a difference in your local community.

You’re also learning every day. I’ve been involved in the law since I was 16 and now at nearly 50, I can genuinely say that I continue to love what I do and a lot of what I love about my work is linked to Broome.

What advantages have you discovered to living and working in Broome?

I don’t think you’d get the same flexibility working in a metropolitan city as you do in Broome. For people who are younger and wanting to start out in the legal profession, or even older lawyers who want a lifestyle change, you can do that in RRR areas. People here understand about other commitments because they have the same issues. The reality is that you’re so close to where you work, there are no traffic lights so it’s easy to get around and you’re never stuck in traffic, the weather is great‚ I run along Cable Beach every day and it’s easy to make time for things like that.

In moving from Melbourne to Broome, what preconceived notions, or myths, about life in a RRR area have you found to be untrue?

The common myths about life in Broome are that there’s nothing to do, it’s boring, lonely, the weather’s too hot and you can’t expand yourself professionally. The reality is it’s nothing like that. Professionally, you’re as busy as you want to be. If you work hard, the work will keep coming in. People are often worried about work prospects when they ask me about Broome, but there is so much work here‚ you can earn a really good living.

As someone who has lived and raised a family in Broome for a number of years now, what advice would you give to someone who may be in a similar situation and was contemplating a move to a RRR area of Australia to practise law?

My advice would be: just do it. Too many people get bogged down in the detail with things like money, kids and work when it really isn’t a big concern. In my experience, kids love the lifestyle here and as a parent you will actually have more time to spend with them. You’re able to have more interaction with your children: you’re able to attend their assemblies and sports days and be more involved in their lives. You tend to spend what you earn so if you are earning less whilst travelling you live on less‚ it is amazing what you can do without when you have to and equally incredible as to how easily you can slip back into town life when you stop for a while and start to accumulate all over again.

I would never hesitate to recommend a place like Broome to anybody. Australia is an amazing place and not enough Australians actually see it‚ the experiences here can’t be bought. There are wonderful opportunities for all sorts of people to work remotely and your sense of achievement when you see the difference you make in peoples’ lives is huge.

I don’t think you’d get the same flexibility working in a metropolitan city as you do in Broome.