'If I can do it, so can you' – a profile of Lawyer Daniel Ajak

'If I can do it, so can you' – a profile of Lawyer Daniel Ajak

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Victoria Legal Aid Lawyer Daniel Ajak
Victoria Legal Aid Lawyer Daniel Ajak

What was your job prior to joining Victoria Legal Aid?

I worked at Papa Hughes Lawyers as a criminal defence lawyer. Prior to that I worked at Thomson Geer, Salvos Legal and Doconade Adelaide Lawyers.

What was your motivation for getting into law?

After I finished school, my marks qualified me to study mechanical engineering at university. However, my heart wasn’t in it, and during my first year I started to reflect back on my life in a refugee camp.

Both my parents are South Sudanese, and my father was a tribal chief and advocate in his country. He resolved tribal disputes within our clan and appeared as counsel when our tribe had disputes with other tribes.

I reasoned that if I had my father’s problem solving skills, they would only be improved with a legal education background, and by earning a legal degree, I would be in a position to give back to my community and Australian society.

What attracted you to work for Victoria Legal Aid?

I was attracted to Victoria Legal Aid because it offers the opportunity to make a difference via strategic litigation and law reforms.

The opportunity to represent young people from my birth country, who are over-represented in our justice system, was another driving factor to join Victoria Legal Aid.

I am looking forward to taking on my duty lawyer duties in the Summary Crime team, providing on-my-feet advocacy and being a part of the new Night Court.

You are trying to set up an African Lawyers and Law Students Association?

My colleagues and I are setting up the association in order to assist Africans who have graduated from law school, and we have received support from the Law Institute of Victoria and the Department of Justice and Regulation.

I have been privileged to have walked into a job straight after law school, but unfortunately this does not apply to everyone, especially those who know no one in the law. Also, not everyone has the ability to network, and this association will help aspiring lawyers build contacts.

I hope that one day this association will be the peak body for African lawyers and law students, a voice for the African Australians and a platform for lawyers and students to network and support each other.

You are giving a speech at the Ethnics Communities Council of Victoria in May?

I have been asked to speak at speak at the ECCV 2018 State Conference Workplace Revolution – Blueprints for a diverse tomorrow.

My keynote address canvasses personal stories of vibrant change agents with a title ‘personal workplace story in a changing world’.

In my speech I will give an outline of my personal history of growing up in a refugee camp, settling in Adelaide, completing my schooling and university education, working in the law in Adelaide and moving to Melbourne.

By delivering the speech, I want to inspire employers in the public and private sector to seek out refugees in their recruitment drives, as refugees bring different insights, resilience and strength to a workplace. Refugees can create positive disruptions in workplaces and many employers are not enough making the most of these.

I also want to inspire young refugees and migrants who have walked in the same shoes that I have and tell them, if I can do it, so can you.

More information

Find out more about working at Victoria Legal Aid.

Find out more about ECCV 2018 State Conference Workplace Revolution – Blueprints for a diverse tomorrow.

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