Laura Saric, Bachelor of Commerce/Bachelor of Laws
Laura Saric’s family was forced to flee the former Yugoslavia and seek refuge first in Germany, and then later in Australia. Remembering the kindness with which she was treated, the ACU law student is passionate about helping today’s refugees, and volunteers at Melbourne’s Refugee Immigration and Legal Centre (RILC). David Manne is the Executive Director of the RILC.
“My parents were born in Croatia but lived in Bosnia. When the war broke out and Yugoslavia split into different countries they were forced to flee and leave everything behind. After months of moving and trying to find a safe place, they settled in Hamburg, Germany.
Although I was born in Germany the migration administrators failed to recognise my birth date but referred to it as an ‘arrival date’ as I was a refugee.
I was five years old when we eventually came to Australia but I remember a lot. I remember settling here and the difficulty of not being able to speak the language. I remember starting school and being the new girl who didn’t speak a word of English. I knew German and Croatian but I had no idea what the teachers were saying so I just sat there. I remember being thirsty and not being able to ask for a drink of water. These are the things about the refugee experience that you might not necessarily understand unless you have lived through it.
As refugees in Germany we were actually treated quite well compared to how some refugees are treated here in Australia. People were always kind to us and I still remember how much that meant at the time. That is why I am so passionate about volunteering at the Refugee Immigration and Legal Centre (RILC). It’s my way to give back.
I originally completed a pro-bono placement at the centre as part of my law degree at ACU and I have been there ever since. Human rights law is a real interest of mine and I admire the passion that RILC’s Executive Director David Manne has for this particular area. I think the way an organisation is run usually filters from the top-down and this is definitely the case at RILC. Everyone there is passionate about their work.
As a lawyer, you really have to understand your clients. You have to listen to them and understand where they are coming from. Pro-bono work is a really important part of a legal career so this is a great opportunity to see how that aspect works. Even though RILC is a not-for-profit organisation my work there still replicates what happens in a law firm context.
The clients at RILC are usually seeking some form of visa, either for themselves or for family members. Lately there have been a lot of refugees from Pakistan which is affected by war at the moment. So many people want help but there are just not enough volunteers to go around. That’s why I continue to give my time.
Last week I assisted a woman from Somalia whose sister had been killed by the army leaving her five children orphaned and alone. I helped her fill out a range of visa forms and took the woman to the post office. Small things like that can make a big difference because at the end of the day that paperwork might get those children across to Australia and have a positive impact on their lives.”
More recently, Laura was one of the finalists and top ten students shortlisted for a work experience position with CPA Australia and Tennis Australia! Over 2,500 students apply each year. A great achievement.