As the Secretariat for Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR), Randa provides a range of new resources to ALHR which greatly enhance their ability to promote, practice and protect universally accepted standards of human rights throughout Australia and overseas.
As part of a larger Clinical Team within the law school and College of ASSC, Randa’s role as Clinical and Human Rights Advocacy Coordinator is to develop and maintain clinical legal education placements for students across all courses and placement related subjects offered at the La Trobe Law School.
So without further ado, it’s our pleasure to introduce Randa Rafiq, our second Legal Eagle ‘Falconer’!
Randa, you’ve had extensive experience working in university administration and volunteering in the community legal sector. Can you tell us how you came to be the Secretariat for the Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) and the Clinical Legal Education Coordinator at La Trobe?
I have been a member of the La Trobe community for over 20 years, having first commenced studies at La Trobe as an undergraduate student. Upon graduating from a BA I worked in international education for six years, mainly in the Study Abroad and Exchange Office. During that time I completed an MBA and moved to the Graduate School of Management as a Business Development Manager. I am currently completing a Bachelor of Laws (Graduate Entry). In connection to my studies and in pursuit of experience in a community setting, I began volunteering at the Whittlesea Community Legal Service in late 2010. In March 2015, I was recognised for my involvement and outstanding contributions to the legal service and my local community with a Whittlesea International Women’s Day Award. This award was a launching pad for my role with the Law School and ALHR.
You seem to be creating new and exciting initiatives for La Trobe students to volunteer and gain experience in a variety of legal organisations at an incredible pace. Can you tell us about some of those initiatives?
The Wills and Wishes Clinic supports people making complex life decisions in creating their own Wills. This is an Australian first partnership between the La Trobe Law School and the Neighbourhood Justice Centre (NJC). Students work alongside an experienced social worker and an experienced solicitor throughout the project. Students assist in arranging wills, powers of attorney, advanced health directives and similar legal instruments, which are then drafted and settled by an experienced Wills and Probate solicitor.
The ASRC and the Law School partnered together in July 2016 to develop the “Fast Track” limited assistance clinic. This clinic was created to ensure additional legal services are available to asylum seekers. During the Clinic, clients are assisted to prepare a valid application for protection, including the relevant Department of Immigration and Border Protection form and supporting statement of claims. Clinics run weekly at the ASRC’s premises in Footscray on a Friday. Eight teams of two students provide legal services for an estimated 8 clients per clinic under the supervision of a dedicated clinical supervisor.
In July 2015, the subject Human Rights Advocacy was designed to enable students to develop their communication and research skills in the context of human rights practice. Working closely with legal practitioners from ALHR, students engage in activities designed to promote awareness of international human rights standards in Australia, including Federal and State legislative compliance with the principles of international human rights law, and to support practitioners who assist victims of human rights violations in Australia. Students work under the supervision of an academic coordinator and, with the assistance of the administrative coordinator, engage in legal research and produce position papers, blog entries, submissions, and other materials as required by ALHR.
What do you think distinguishes La Trobe University and its students from other universities?
La Trobe’s clinical legal education program dates back to 1978 and La Trobe Law has a strong commitment to social justice and to providing “hands on” legal experiences for its students. With five different Clinical Legal Education programs in Melbourne and Bendigo, law students are able to provide services to people who do not have the resources to access the legal system, intertwined with a high quality educational experience.
La Trobe’s mission is for our students to be the difference. Accordingly, the Law School is continuously seeking and creating clinical partnerships that not only improve access to justice, but also raise awareness of human rights issues in Australia and internationally. Our goal is to provide each student with at least one clinical experience during their time at the Law School.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part of my job is when a partnership benefits all parties involved. It it is also the ability to provide students with a real understanding of the legal practitioner’s role and the variety that exists in legal work. By undertaking a placement for credit or voluntary placement with ALHR, students develop a deep understanding of the ethical and professional responsibilities of legal practitioners and their employment prospects improve.
In addition, being able to provide our partners with additional resources in the form of student solicitors is very rewarding. Some organisations would not be able to run clinics or services in their community without clinical legal education programs. The ASRC ‘Fast Track Clinic’ for example provides assistance to 8 additional clients each week.
What are some of the challenges you have faced in your career and how did you deal with these challenges?
I would say the biggest challenges I have faced are personal job satisfaction and fulfilment as well as the career progression as the primary care giver within a family working part-time.
Job satisfaction and fulfilment can vary over time. However, if you have a strong desire to pursue a certain career, then it is important to do what you love or feel passionate about. In my career I found myself regularly searching for a role that allowed me to utilise my passion for social justice and to make a difference in people’s lives. At a certain point in my career I found myself regularly questioning the value of my professional contribution to society as a whole. It was at this point that I chose to return to further study and I enrolled in the LLB. Some few months later I volunteered my time at my local community legal service and the rest is history.
Another challenge I have personally encountered is finding the balance between career progression and my choice to work part time work because of my role as primary care giver. My way of dealing with this challenge is to stay engaged in the work force, continue studying and to ensure that whatever I am doing is personally and professionally meaningful and engaging.
Finally, what advice would you give to students who want to get involved in human rights law or community law generally?
Get involved early. Seize any volunteer, placement, internship and/or clerkship opportunities. Work hard, stay connected, give back if you have the capacity and don’t be afraid to promote yourself and your achievements.
What do you do outside of work for enjoyment?
I enjoy travelling, going to the gym, spending time with my family, catching up with friends and cooking.
This post was originally published on the La Trobe Law Students Association’s website.