find the latest legal job
Senior Associate - Litigation & Dispute Resolution
Category: Litigation and Dispute Resolution | Location: Melbourne CBD & Inner Suburbs Melbourne VIC
· Come work for a firm ranked in Lawyers Weekly Top 25 Attraction Firms
View details
Associate - Workplace Relations & Safety
Category: Industrial Relations and Employment Law | Location: Brisbane CBD & Inner Suburbs Brisbane QLD
· Employer of choice · Strong team culture
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Banking and Finance Law | Location: All Perth WA
· Freelance opportunities through Vario from Pinsent Masons
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Adelaide SA
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Melbourne VIC
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Desperately seeking asylum (1)

Desperately seeking asylum (1)

As World Refugee Weekis celebrated amidst continuing debate around Australia's asylum seeker policies, two young refugees-turned-lawyers share their thoughts on humanity, opportunity and getting…

As World Refugee Weekis celebrated amidst continuing debate around Australia's asylum seeker policies, two young refugees-turned-lawyers share their thoughts on humanity, opportunity and getting a fair go. Claire Chaffey writes

When Jose Cruz was just 8 years old, he thought the sound of gun fire and bombs exploding was normal. The fact that his neighbours were kidnapped and tortured, before being rescued and fleeing to Canada, was not particularly unusual for someone who had lived most of his life in the shadow of civil war.

But in 1987, seven years after the civil war in Central America's El Salvador began, Cruz's parents saw there was no future for them or their children in the war-torn country and made an off-shore refugee application to come to Australia. Two years later, the Cruz family was on a plane bound for Brisbane.

Kot Monoah was also just a young boy when civil war forced him and his family of eight to flee Southern Sudan for neighbouring Ethiopia. At just four years of age, Monoah had witnessed atrocities most of us will never have to face: people from his community being gunned down and dying in explosions as the National Islamic Front descended.

However, escalating conflict in Ethiopia soon forced the family to walk to Kenya - a long and treacherous journey which many did not survive, and where hazards like lions and disease were a daily reality. Like thousands of other refugees, they eventually settled in Kakuma Refugee Camp where they stayed for the next 12 years.

In 2003 Monoah's life changed when he met an immigration lawyer at Kakuma who assessed his family's application for refugee status. Not only did this lawyer find Monoah's family eligible for resettlement in Australia, he also inspired Monoah to pursue a career in law.

"When I could see that this lawyer was able to take his time and assess our case on the facts and merits on humanitarian grounds, I had a feeling that lawyers are people who want to help and who are there to help the underprivileged"

Kot Monoah, solicitor, Slater & Gordon

"When I could see that this lawyer was able to take his time and assess our case on the facts and merits on humanitarian grounds, I had a feeling that lawyers are people who want to help and who are there to help the underprivileged," he says.

"I felt that if I ever got the opportunity, the law would be a career I would look into."

In 2004, Monoah was given that opportunity and he and his family were resettled in Melbourne. Now, seven years later, Monoah is a solicitor with Slater & Gordon.

Cruz, too, became a lawyer and now works as an associate with Brisbane firm Rostron Carlyle. He says the drive to practise law is directly linked to his background.

"That push to always find justice was always in me, but it's only now that I ask myself why I am driven to do that. I think it's because I grew up in a society where justice wasn't the norm," he says.

"I felt I needed to do something with my life, because we moved from El Salvador. I was searching for something that would be a really good vehicle for me to be able to fight for good causes."

Both Cruz and Monoah have made the most of the opportunities given them in Australia and, while they are understanding of the difficult situation the government faces in dealing with the issue of asylum seekers, they urge a more understanding and empathetic approach.

"The government is entitled to have its position and policies, but whether a person is a refugee or an asylum seeker, all those people have a number of issues in their lives," says Monoah.

"They are looking for opportunities to start afresh in life. We should look at it from the point of view that if we were in those shoes, how would we want to be treated? That is the message."

Cruz has similar views and says that ordinary Australians can always do more to show the government that society will not stand for such discriminatory policies which, he says, do not reflect the wishes of the majority of Australians.

"There should be a human approach, not a legal approach. If you start from there, you might get better results. Why is it that a mother is willing to put their child into that situation? They're asking for help. Let's address it from a human point of view," he says.

"Refugees are not going away. This is going to be a part of our world. If we want to be leaders in the international community, we have to deal with this issue accordingly, and in a positive way."

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Desperately seeking asylum (1)
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Consultation
06:04
Lawyers slam rushed consultation for SA repeat offenders bill
The Law Society of South Australia has expressed concern for a proposal to roll out new laws amendin...
IBA
06:03
The pursuit of happiness in the law
A panel of legal experts have explored how to define success in the legal profession, and how lawyer...
Queensland University of Technology, ruby milestone
06:00
Queensland law school reaches ruby milestone
Celebrating 40 years since establishing a law course in 1977, the Queensland University of Technolog...
APPOINTMENTS
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
opinion
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
Help
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...