Not your average placement

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

ACU pro-bono law placement. Heidi Pfeiffer and Abdul Malek Kazimi Heidi Pfeiffer and Abdul Malek Kazimi at the UN in Geneva.

ACU law students visiting the United Nations observed important human rights work during a 10-day pro bono placement in Geneva.  

Thanks to Edmund Rice International (ERI), law students Heidi Pfeiffer and Abdul Malek Kazimi had the opportunity to participate in ERI activities at the UN as part of the pro bono requirement for their Bachelor of Laws.  

Edmund Rice International (ERI) is an international Catholic non-government organisation (NGO) committed to working for children and young people who are marginalised because of poverty, lack of access to education, legal status, environmental degradation or involvement in armed conflict.

ERI runs an pro bono placement program that provides an educational experience in human rights advocacy at an international level.

Heidi is a second year Sydney student and Director of the Social Justice Committee of the MacKillop Law Students’ Society (MAKLSS) in addition to being a recipient of the Thomas More Academic Merit Law Scholarship.

“Our time in Geneva was a whirlwind of experiences which have helped me grow in both understanding and passion,” Heidi said.

“While being there I attended a wide variety of sessions at the Human Rights Council and multiple side sessions. It was incredibly eye opening to see how the UN operates and to witness first-hand discussions on important human rights issues ranging from terrorist attacks and conflicts to climate change and women’s rights.

“I have also been given the opportunity to use my legal skills to research legislation and prepare information files on child rights and children in detention centres, as well as adolescent suicide in over 30 countries.”

Also in his second year of law, Abdul Malek is studying in Melbourne after he came to Australia from Afghanistan as a refugee in 2006. With like-minded peers, he recently established a group that offers assistance to Afghan refugees on a volunteer basis under the banner of Project YANA – an acronym for ‘You Are Not Alone’.

“I have gained a world of invaluable knowledge and experience which will last me throughout my life. I went to Geneva to fulfil a requirement of my law course, but my work and stay gave me much more than what I expected,” Abdul Malek said.

“I learned a lot about the areas of human rights that are the focus of ERI activities and about some aspects of the legal and organisational structure of a NGO like ERI as well as the approaches NGOs take in carrying out their work, be it community service or advocacy.

“I have always been very interested in human rights law, but now that I have gained some insight into what human rights involve in practice, I am certain about my decision of continuing human rights law alongside my other study goals.”