Q&A with Amelia Thomas, W+K Sydney Solicitor & Pro Bono Supporter
In the final Q&A of our series with W+K staff who are helping to drive our Community Footprint Program, we talk to Amelia Thomas – Solicitor and pro bono supporter in our Sydney office.
Why are you involved in our pro bono program?
One of the reasons I’m involved in the pro bono program is because it provides me with perspective and takes me out of my comfort zone. The program provides a great opportunity to learn new skills and practice in a variety of different areas of law including elder and refugee law. I’ve had great satisfaction meeting clients and working one on one to help solve their legal problems.
What pro bono projects / matters are you currently involved in? Tell us a bit about at least one of them.
Two of the initiatives I am currently involved in are the Senior Rights Service and Wotton + Kearney’s refugee program. At the Senior Rights Service I have assisted in advising several clients on a wide variety of issues, including consumer law, wills and estates and enduring guardianship. The Senior Rights Service is a rewarding experience as it provides the opportunity to speak directly with clients and provide them with practical legal advice that has a positive impact on their lives.
As part of the refugee program I have been involved in a number of “M68” matters in which we have filed applications in the High Court to allow refugees to stay in Australia. Often these refugees are brought to Australia from offshore detention centres for urgent medical treatment. As part of this work, I have personally gotten to know some of our refugee clients which has given me an insight into the experiences refugees go through when leaving their home countries in search of a better life.
Tell us about an instance where you feel you have had a positive impact as a result of your pro bono work.
A positive experience I have had has been assisting one of our female refugee clients. This client fled from Iran at the age of 22 and came to Australia by boat. She was then detained, first on Christmas Island and then on Nauru. This client was recognised as a refugee in 2014 however remained in offshore detention for close to 4 years. When she was 26, she was brought to Australia to receive medical treatment and gave birth to her first child in Brisbane. There were a number of complications with the birth and we were able to assist this client and her child remain in Australia and obtain health and community services to assist in this difficult time.
While this client has remained in Australia, her husband was still detained on Nauru until only recently when he was transferred to Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation Centre (BITA). We are now also assisting our clients’ husband and are working hard to have the family reunited outside of detention.
What benefit do you personally derive from your involvement in pro bono work?
I like that it involves a personal connection. I like that I can see a direct effect on a living, breathing, human person, having assisted them by applying my legal knowledge to a situation. I like that it pushes me out of my comfort zone and allows me to learn about other areas of law, to which I am not exposed in my insurance work. I like that it enables me to pursue my altruistic dreams of saving the world in an environment where there is plenty of support and encouragement, and always someone available to answer my (novice) questions.
Why do you think others should get involved?
Personally, I find pro bono work very rewarding as it reminds me that there is more to practicing law than billable targets. Through the pro bono program, I am able to use my legal training to improve the lives of others and it’s always a good reminder of how fortunate I am.
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