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Law across cultures

University of Queensland law students shared their knowledge with their Myanmar counterparts during a recent visit, in an effort to increase their understanding of access to justice.

TC Beirne School of Law students Ashley Chandler, Tammy Tang and Phoebe Kelly were selected for the internship with Babseacle, a non-profit community legal organisation providing clinical education and English training to law students throughout Asia.

UQ Pro Bono Centre Director and Clinical Legal Education Coordinator Monica Taylor, who organised the placements, said Babseacle has a strong reputation for groundbreaking work in educating the next generation of lawyers about the importance of access to justice.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for our law students to participate in this vital work and learn about what access to justice means in different cultures,” Ms Taylor said.

“It helps students develop high level intercultural communication and teamwork skills, while gaining a first-hand appreciation of the complexities of addressing access to justice needs in a developing country.”

The training focused on helping Taunggyi University students understand the barriers preventing members of their society from accessing justice.

The internship began with a week of intensive training in Yangon on interactive teaching methods, access to justice and promoting an ethical legal profession, as well as field trips to the Yangon Rule of Law Centre and the Yangon Justice Centre.

Ms Tang said the experience of living and working in another country had been invaluable, offering insight and understanding not possible from a classroom.

“I returned with new friendships, an increased understanding of the Myanmar people and culture, and a strengthened passion to contribute to creating a social justice-focused legal community in Australia and in parts of the world where the concept of fairness is still foreign,” she said.

Ms Kelly said the experience was deeply rewarding.

“From having relatively little knowledge of Myanmar, I now understand the barriers marginalised people face in accessing justice and I have been able to impart knowledge and solutions to the students at Taunggyi University,” she said.

“Not only does the clinical legal education program allow the Burmese students to become pro-bono minded, it has the same effect on Australian students.”

Ms Chandler said the experience had broadened her horizons and prompted her to rethink her future career path.

“I’ve become interested in potentially working in development where I can combine my legal expertise with my interest in economics and politics,” she said.

The UQ Law School is working to expand its international clinical legal education opportunities through its course elective Clinical Legal Education, which is overseen and administered by the UQ Pro Bono Centre.

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