WESTERN AUSTRALIAN lawyer Graham Castledine says refugee cases in the Federal Court are “generally speaking, soul destroying as the law is stacked against you”. However, he recently acted in case that went all the way to the High Court and eventually saw his client granted permanent residency.
“It was a really good example of how pro bono work can change someone’s life in a really big way,” he said.
Castledine, whose pro bono work has included convening and administering the CASE for Refugees Community Legal Centre, was last week presented with the Attorney-General’s Community Service Law Award for his contribution to pro bono legal work in Western Australia over the past ten years.
There were nine nominees altogether, and two others were short-listed alongside Castledine. They were John Cooke of Godfrey Virtue and Co and Julia Johnston of Calverley Johnston.
Castledine said he was extremely grateful for the recognition and that pro bono work has been personally rewarding.
“I think it gives you a better appreciation for the number of people in the community who without that assistance would have nowhere else to go. It changes your response to situations. When we do commercial work there’s any number of competitors who could also be doing it but in pro bono you are often the only person who could possibly help at that point in time and that’s quite a significant thing. And you also get a fantastic level of appreciation from people — even when you don’t succeed. They really appreciate having their day in court and that you tried to help them,” he said.
Castledine recently left Minter Ellison to start his own practice, Castledine Legal and Mediation Services, but paid tribute to his former employer.
“Although I’ve recently left Minter Ellison the pro bono program there has really become a significant thing,” he said.