Dr Betsy Ann Buchanan is credited with having established Western Australia’s first Community Law Centre in 1976. Now, there are 280 such centres in Western Australia. She worked as an advocate based at the Aboriginal Medical Service (later the Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service) working on cases involving housing evictions, the handicapped child’s allowance, the reporting of child sexual abuse and the Royal Commission into Deaths in Custody. Her work with the Aboriginal community has spanned over 40 years.
Betsy was from a distinguished family. Her father was a Country Party Member of Parliament and war veteran. Her interest in indigenous issues came from growing up in a small country town near a mission and reserve. After graduating in law from the UWA she was employed at Crown law in 1971 but then chose to be a voluntary legal and social welfare advocate for Aboriginal people.
In 2000, she received the distinguished Non-Indigenous Award from the National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) which she felt to be personally a significant acknowledgement of her work with the indigenous communities. She was also awarded a City of Perth Civic Medallion for her legal work with deprived indigenous people.
In 2006, she received her Doctorate from Warnborough College.
On March 8, 2017, Betsy was honoured for her work in legal and human rights fieldsby being inducted into the Western Australia Women’s Hall of Fame. She attributes her success to staying focused and not losing sight of what is really important.