I am an Australian final year Bachelor of Laws student studying at Charles Darwin University (CDU). This summer I was honoured to be selected to partake in an inaugural collaboration between CDU and the HIRC to experience not only the tenacity and commitment of the team at HIRC but to join them as they assist clients applying for non-refoulement under both the Refugee Convention and the Torture Convention because they have either suffered persecution in the past or have a well-founded fear of persecution in the future on account of their race, religion, nationality or membership of a particular social group or political opinion should they return back to their home countries. Not only have I had the honour of working with the HIRC legal and academic team but with other dedicated interns.
By day two of my experience I quickly learned that stories of refugee status seekers that have evolved from case law and academic writings in my studies only bears a minimal resemblance to the reality of personally dealing with those who have faced human rights atrocities in their country of origin. My ‘baptism’ into the culture of the HIRC was a sudden immersion into the depths of the clients’ stories and a honed understanding of the importance of the work the HIRC do in providing pro-bono legal assistance to them. My fear of my own inadequacies paled into insignificance when I realised the urgency of the work needed to be done, the time frames in which to do them along with my limited time of 4 weeks with the Clinic. However, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
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