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Working for asylum seekers on Nauru

Working for asylum seekers on Nauru

By Justice Connect

Access to Justice Advocacy Asylum Young Persons 

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Justice Connect’s Nauru Network provides pro bono assistance to asylum seekers on Nauru to judicially review decisions made by the Supreme Court of Nauru concerning their refugee claims. These appeals are heard by the High Court of Australia, sitting as the ultimate court of appeal for Nauru.

In this week’s blog, young lawyer Kirsty Osborne from Holding Redlich shares her insights and advice after securing a win for the person seeking asylum.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I started working at Holding Redlich as a graduate in 2016. I currently work at Adviceline Injury Lawyers, which is the personal injury division of Holding Redlich.

I primarily assist clients who have been injured at work or are victims of crime. I enjoy helping clients access their entitlements to aid their recovery and compensate them for the impact their injuries have had on their lives. The work is particularly rewarding when the client also feels the legal process has brought them a sense of justice and closure.

How was it working on your firm’s recent High Court win in HFM045 v Republic of Nauru?

We acted pro-bono for a Nepali citizen who was fleeing persecution because of his political opinion. In September 2013, our client arrived on Christmas Island by boat. Two months later, he was transferred to Nauru under the regional processing arrangement.

In Nauru, our client applied to the Refugee Status Tribunal (RST) for refugee protection but his application was denied. Our client then unsuccessfully appealed to the Supreme Court of Nauru on the basis that he was denied procedural fairness, as the RST based their determination on country information about the political circumstances in Nepal which our client was not made aware of or given an opportunity to respond to.

Under a legislative agreement between Nauru and Australia, our client’s last right of appeal was to the High Court of Australia. We assisted our client to bring this appeal.

I found working on the matter very rewarding and instructing in the High Court was an amazing experience. It was fantastic to achieve a successful outcome for the client, giving him a second chance at being granted refugee protection in Nauru.

As a young lawyer, what skills did you bring to the matter and what new skills did you learn?

My role was largely to ensure that the matter ran smoothly. I was the primary liaison between the client, counsel and Court. I was also responsible for managing deadlines and preparing court documents. As some of the tasks were quasi-administrative, I think the matter was ideal for a young lawyer.

These types of matters also provide an opportunity for young lawyers to gain experience explaining complicated legal concepts, like administrative law, to clients who have had no exposure to our legal system. The fact that our client was on Nauru, and we could only communicate with him using an old mobile phone and the assistance of a translator, added to this challenge.

What support did you have to assist you working on this matter?

I was supervised by senior associate John Wieladek, who is a great teacher and allowed me to have a lot of responsibility on the matter. I was also supported by our pro bono manager Guy Donovan and internal administration staff. With respect to contacting the client and obtaining documents from Nauru, we received practical assistance from Justice Connect. We also briefed very experienced counsel, Peter Hanks QC and Roshan Chaile – who were fantastic to work with.

What advice would you give other young lawyers who have the chance to work on similar High Court matter?

These matters run relatively quickly for litigation. We filed the application in March, were listed for hearing in September and received judgment in November. I would advise another young lawyer to take the time to review the High Court Rules and litigation timeline at the outset of the matter, as it is often the responsibility of the young lawyer to ensure that deadlines are met and documents are in the prescribed format. Needless to say, the High Court is very particular about proper procedure and compliance with its rules is an essential aspect of any proceeding before it.

The LIV Young Lawyers thanks Kirsty and Justice Connect for their time.

Looking to help? For solicitors: We suggest you talk to your firm’s partner, pro bono coordinator or the person responsible for pro bono work at your firm. To find pro bono opportunities for your firm see www.justiceconnect.org.au/get-involved, which also manages the LIV’s pro bono Legal Assistance Program.


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