Aspiring lawyer supporting migrants, refugees achieve their dreams

3 August 2023
Community and Social Participation

Volunteering is its own reward for Maurice Blackburn legal assistant Nathan Chau.

Nathan, who is studying law and commerce part-time, volunteers with migrant and refugee settlement agency AMES Australia supporting newly arrived people re-launch their professional careers in Australia.

He is a volunteer with AMES’ Skilled Professional Migrant program (SPMP) which supports newly arrived skilled migrants into jobs that fit their qualifications and experience.

Nathan provides mock interview opportunities for SPMP students as well as advice about interview techniques, resume writing and Australian workplace culture.

“At Maurice Blackburn I’m part of the cultural diversity group. As a group we facilitate events to promote cultural diversity internally and to look at ways we can promote and improve cultural diversity externally in society generally,” Nathan said.

“I started working with AMES as part of our cultural diversity program last year,” he said.

“I was looking for a way to volunteer, but it’s difficult when you work full-time. It was something I missed from when I was working casually and the cultural diversity group was perfect. And AMES provided an opportunity for consistent, meaningful volunteer work.

“I think it’s important that people volunteer and give back to the community.

“When my boss went on parenting leave I took over managing the program. I love the program and I wanted to get more involved.

“We currently have eight to ten active volunteers but we want to expand that and grow the program.”

Nathan said supporting AMES SPMP students was rewarding and also a learning experience.

“I’m learning about different people and their different cultures. The program has unlocked for me an understanding of different cultures that I have never experienced before,” he said.

“I knew theoretically about how it can be difficult to transition into Australian society. Through volunteering, I’ve seen that in real life.”

Nathan said meeting one student particularly left an impression on him.

“Through AMES I was able to support members of the Ukrainian community who have had to flee their homeland,” he said.

“One women was a law professor who has had a 30-year career in the legal industry – a career she had to leave behind.

“It’s really rewarding to be able to help people transition into Australian society. We wanted to make a contribution and we have the privilege of being able to help out.”

Nathan said part of his motivation to volunteer with AMES was his own parents’ journey as refugees from Vietnam.

“My parents and grandparents fled Vietnam after the war. They made difficult and dangerous journeys on small boats. My mum was eight-years-old when she arrived,” he said.

“Because of this, I have an understanding of the difficulties refugees face in settling in a new country. And I am lucky enough to be able to help them out and make the process a little easier.

“And volunteering is good for my own personal development. I’m learning some interview skills and how to best go about meeting new people and interacting with them in a positive way.

“Being able to give back is really rewarding,” he said.