My past does not define my future

My past does not define my future

Monday, 18 March 2019

Daniel Ajak, Lawyer, Youth Crime, Victoria Legal Aid
Daniel Ajak, Lawyer, Youth Crime, Victoria Legal Aid

Daniel Ajak, a lawyer in our Youth Crime team, recently spoke at VicForum 2019, a one-day event held annually during Victoria’s Cultural Diversity Week. 

The event aims to help organisations better engage with diverse communities, with this year's theme being ‘Are you talking to me? The power of literacy’. Daniel spoke about his education journey, and how literacy literally changed his life.

Born in Ethiopia after his parents fled their home country of Sudan due to civil war, having to flee Ethiopia after civil war also consumed that country, losing four siblings to civil war and sickness by age 4, spending 13 years in a Kenyan refugee camp before being accepted for resettlement in Australia … Daniel Ajak’s early years have not been easy, but the criminal lawyer has refused to let his past define his future.

‘My childhood was less than idyllic, but the challenges I have faced, and what I have done to overcome them, drives me to help others.

‘Obviously literacy has played a major role in helping me get to where I am today, and I am grateful for the programs that have helped me along the way.

‘These include the new arrival English program at the Adelaide Secondary School of English in South Australia which helped me transition to high school, and then go on to complete my law degree at Flinders University, South Australia,’ said Daniel.

Daniel's first role with us was in our Summary Crime team, though he is currently working in the Youth Crime team where he represents children in the Children’s Court.

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

‘The chance to represent young people from my birth country, who come into contact with our criminal justice system, was another driving factor to join Victoria Legal Aid,’ he said

Daniel is also very proud of the African Australian Legal Network (AALN) which he and other members of the African-Australian legal community have helped develop, and which has been supported by Victoria Legal Aid.

‘The key objectives of the African Australian Legal Network are to provide a cohesive and professional network to advocate for, and provide support to, our members, and to benefit from shared learning and experience.

‘We also want to actively assist African Australian law students and lawyers in finding opportunities for work experience, mentoring, clerkships or full-time employment.

‘I’m also very pleased that Victoria Legal Aid has committed to a clerkship program with our AALN members, which we hope will be operational later this year.

‘This is a great example of the organisation giving law students with a culturally and linguistically diverse background an opportunity to learn and gain the necessary skills and experience to set them up for future roles in the public or private sector,’ said Daniel.

More information

Read more information about VicForum 2019.

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