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Adam McLean – Barrister

Adam McLean is a barrister who has practised in the area of native title and land rights since the early days of native title. He was the barrister in the Arakwal matter and is currently the Principal Legal Officer for Cape York Land Council. He was the lawyer for the first native title claim under the Native Title Act, the first IULA in Australia, and the first comprehensive settlement of native title under a framework agreement. Adam has also been involved in many native title cases across Australia.

Memories from Woodleigh

"Some 40 years later, I can remember my first day at Woodleigh and the build-up and excitement in the months before that first day. I remember my mum saying that there would be no more tie and blazer uniforms and that we would be wearing overalls each day - not exactly true but nevertheless, radically different from Peninsula Junior School that I had come from.


I can remember how I felt cruising around the bush school to my Homestead (3) and painting the tables, and the walls. I can remember entering and leaving the Homestead by the window and growing my hair down to my bum.

I can remember the photography Activity and organising and taking each class’s school photos.

I can remember my first Activity, “Mechanics”, pulling apart a broken lawn mower and my absolute surprise when the bloody thing started upon putting it back together.

I can also remember the golf Activity and accidently hitting that poor girl in the head, my very very bad.

I can remember the bliss, the absolute bliss, at having a surfing Activity that meant four days a week we went surfing in the middle of the day! I still can’t believe it.

I remember dominating at four square when we got to the big kid Homestead.

I remember the swing over the creek in which we got drenched each day.

I remember the huge slope in the oval and the importance of winning the toss so you could kick downhill.

I can remember peer group pressure for me NOT to smoke and I never have.

I can remember running through paddocks at lunch time to our classmate’s farm and swimming in the dam.

I can take photos, surf, fix cars, organise big groups of people, speak in public, dominate at 4 square, play tennis, fix surfboards, edit videos, play guitar, sew, produce a newspaper, vacuum, and generally teach my kids the important things in life in a fun and challenging way.


Woodleigh prepared me so well for everything that has come my way since my time there, academically, but more importantly, for life’s other challenges.

Woodleigh transformed my life and gave me the confidence to try new challenges and I will be forever grateful."

Adam McLean – 1980

Text and images taken from Woodleigh School's 40th anniversary publication 'Independent Thoughts.'

Photography by Amy Woodward. 2015

Buy a copy of Independent Thoughts