A decade of serving the community

Ripples on the water

A cornerstone of the legal profession is that justice remains accessible to all regardless of socio-economic status.

Dedicating time to providing pro bono services to the most disadvantaged and marginalised groups in our society such as asylum seekers and domestic violence survivors is a proud professional tradition and a pillar of legal education.

Yet even amidst this teaching practice, the UQ Pro Bono Centre — which
celebrated its 10-year anniversary this year — is unique.

Of all the students who have spent week after week, hour after hour, night after night, of their spare time working to help deserving causes, culminating in thousands of combined volunteer hours, none have received any course credit or material benefit.

Their work has truly been done all Pro Bono Publico — 'for the public good’.

Centre Director, Monica Taylor said the last decade has seen hundreds of students partner with legal practitioners through the UQ Pro Bono Centre to help vulnerable individuals and populations.

“What many people don’t realise is our students receive no quantifiable benefit for what they give – they are doing it in their own time to help those in need," she said.

“Though not a substitute for an adequately funded public legal system, pro bono legal services help bridge the justice gap and the students involved develop a greater social conscience and gain practical experience."

Professor Tamara Walsh and Dr Paul O’Shea officially established the UQ Pro Bono Centre in early 2009 with the support of the then Head of School, Professor Ross Grantham.

Over the last decade their vision has grown into a centre that provides an invaluable resource to the local, state, federal and international community.

“It's not easy work — clients are often caught in crisis and trying to help them can be demanding and difficult work,” Walsh said.

“The vision was always for the Centre to become cross-disciplinary, connecting law students with other emerging professionals like medicine and social work and we will continue to actively work towards facilitating more multidisciplinary pro bono projects.”

Students, like recent graduate Famin Ahmed, work on a variety of projects including international human rights initiatives.

“Coming from a migrant background, the ability to help people contribute to legislative changes to protect the rights of women was personally and professionally rewarding,” Ahmed said.

“If you’re fortunate enough to have the means and time to help others, you really have a duty to – your position is a privilege; you should use it for the greater good.”

Visit law.uq.edu.au/pro-bono to learn more about the UQ Pro Bono Centre and its current projects.

UQ Pro Bono Centre Director, Monica Taylor with UQ law students
UQ Pro Bono Centre Director, Monica Taylor with a UQ law student
UQ Pro Bono Centre Director, Monica Taylor with UQ law students

Read more inspiring research partnership stories from the 2019 BEL Research Profile.