Akol helps educate on healthy legal habits
by Kelly Stone
For Sudanese refugee and final year Law student Akol Malak (pictured right), volunteering in UniSA’s Legal Advice Clinic allows him to reap many rewards.
Not only is he able to help people with limited access to legal assistance, he is also playing a role in providing community legal education to refugee and disadvantaged communities in Adelaide’s north.
Malak, 25, was among a small group of students who developed a presentation under the supervision of managing solicitor Matthew Atkinson for the Burundi community at Davoren Park.
The Healthy Legal Habits presentation, given by Malak and fellow students Nadine Rachid, Sarah Sisombath and Nicole Spagnoli with an interpreter at Davoren Community Centre, provided information on issues such as dealing with the police, family law and tenancy.
“Providing community education as part of my work in the clinic is really rewarding,” Malak says.
“It’s enabled me to give back to the community and help other refugees who are settling into a new country like I was a few years ago.”
Malak says he was inspired to study law after coming to Australia in 2003 following nine years of living in Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya.
“When I came to Australia I initially found it difficult to reconnect and integrate into mainstream society, partly because of not understanding the law,” he says.
“I thought studying law would help me know my rights and responsibilities as a new citizen of this country and to be able to help educate other people who are potentially having difficulties due to lack of basic knowledge of the law.”
UniSA’s Legal Advice Clinic provides confidential and free legal advice to members of the community.
The clinic provides a valuable opportunity for students to give advice to real clients under supervision by a managing solicitor, and provides access to justice for people who may otherwise not be able to get it.
Malak says working in the clinic provides vital experience in preparing him to be a work-ready legal professional once he finishes his law degree. It has enabled him to gain experience working on cases ranging from defamation and assault, to neighbourhood disputes, debt and family law.
“A typical day in the clinic involves interviewing clients, writing and drafting letters, preparing pleas and affidavits, research, and administrative work in managing clients’ files,” he says.
“The best aspects of working in the clinic for me are being able to provide confidential and free legal advice to people who need it, and gaining vital practical experience in a legal practice environment.”
School of Law Professional Programs Director Rachel Spencer (pictured above), says no two days in the clinic are ever the same.
“Our students learn to expect the unexpected, which is preparing them for real-life work in legal practice,” she says.
“Working as a lawyer requires not only analytical skills and communication skills but also a high level of maturity, empathy and sheer hard work.
“While they are providing a service to the client, our students are also involved in ongoing learning. In the clinic environment, students constantly have to check legislation, read new cases and apply legal theory to new fact situations."
More information about UniSA’s Legal Advice Clinic is available here.