Our Law School’s new partnership with the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre reflects the school’s renowned commitment to social justice.
The partnership enables students to gain supervised clinical experience at the centre, working directly with asylum seekers to prepare valid applications for protection.
Head of La Trobe Law School, Professor Patrick Keyzer, says ‘students come to La Trobe Law School because they know it’s a law school that’s got a very strong and rich tradition of support for human rights.
‘Students here want to make a difference.’
‘It’s a life-changing experience’
For almost 40 years, La Trobe Law School has offered students hands-on clinical legal placements where they can develop their legal understanding and learn about the realities of law in practice, and gain academic credit while serving the community.
‘We’ve always thought it important for students to get as much practical experience as they can before graduating,’ explains Professor Keyzer.
Students first take part in our rigorous induction process where we train them to be effective placement volunteers. The School has been providing clinical legal education placements since 1978, Professor Keyzer says, so ‘the length of history and the scholarship and learning that sits behind the training here is, frankly, unsurpassed.’
The students then gain further training and induction at the ASRC, ‘which provides an extremely valuable window into the practice of migration law’. Once in the clinic, they’re under appropriate supervision to ensure they’re well supported.
‘The feedback we get from students in our clinics has always been incredibly positive. Many of them talk about it as a life-changing experience,’ explains Professor Keyzer.
‘Our alumni – who have gone into human rights and social justice areas of practice, as well as commercial practice, private practice and public practice – have singled out their clinical placement experience as being their stand-out experience at our Law school.’
‘We are proud to be associated with the ASRC’
The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre is a community-led, not-for-profit organisation committed to upholding the human rights of all people seeking asylum. It’s the largest provider of aid, legal and health services to people seeking asylum in Australia.
Our partnership with ASRC came about in part because the founder and CEO of ASRC, Kon Karapanagiotidis, also happens to be ‘one of our finest La Trobe Law School alumni’.
‘We’re absolutely delighted and incredibly proud that one of our graduates has gone on to be such a leading advocate for asylum seekers,’ says Professor Keyzer.
Our students will be working in the ‘Fast Track’ process to help deal with the large backlog of unprocessed or partially processed protection claims, known as ‘the Legacy Caseload’.
‘Several months ago, the Andrews Government announced a major tranche of funding for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre to support the Legacy Caseload initiative.
‘The initiative is designed to assist asylum seekers in navigating the incredibly complicated and impenetrable maze of regulations that has been erected by the federal Department of Immigration. It’s a maze through which these asylum seekers need to walk to realise their human rights.’
It’s estimated there are approximately 24,000 people subject to the Fast Track process across Australia, with around 10,000 of those in Victoria alone. Our students will play a significant role in assisting these people with their claims.
‘Human rights issues are raised every day, every hour’
Professor Keyzer says that while employment opportunities in international human rights law are relatively rare, there are many areas of legal practice where human rights issues are raised every minute.
‘Criminal law, an area where La Trobe Law School has much strength, is an area of legal practice replete with human rights issues,’ he says. ‘So is immigration law’.
‘Not every case you’re going to be involved in is going to go all the way to the UN, however, a couple of weeks ago two of our students worked with a number of our academics here to complete two Communications to the United Nations Human Rights Committee,’ says Professor Keyzer.
The team represented two indigenous men with cognitive impairment who have been indefinitely detained in maximum security prisons in the Northern Territory.
Although human rights law is work that’s largely done on a voluntary basis, Professor Keyzer says there’s plenty of opportunities to get involved if you’re able to donate your time – as our two students did.
‘One of our students, a refugee, will deliver the keynote’
Our Law School’s partnership with ASRC will be officially launched at the centre on Monday September 12. ‘One of our Law School students, Kobra Moradi, will be speaking at the launch. Kobra came here with her father from Afghanistan and successfully sought asylum in Australia about a decade ago.
‘Kobra has such a compelling story. It’s my proudest moment, as Head of the School, to be watching one of our students, a refugee, help us launch a clinic to assist asylum seekers with one of our alumni.
‘It is emblematic of our commitment to human rights.’