Giving a voice to the voiceless with Refugee Legal

Refugee Legal

Refugee Legal is Australia’s largest provider of free specialist legal assistance to refugees, disadvantaged migrants and people seeking asylum.

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) can be a scary place, especially when you feel like its decision could make that day the most important one of your life. Add to that the complexities of the legal system, the constant administrative requirements and (very often) significant language barriers, and the entire experience can be overwhelming. 

That's why the work of organisations like Refugee Legal is so critical. It's an independent, non-profit community legal centre specialising in refugee and immigration law. Working with partner organisations, it represents the interests of its clients in a range of matters – some of which are heard at the AAT. Through its work, and with partnerships like the one with Allens, Refugee Legal is able to give a voice to the voiceless and empower those who might otherwise feel they have no options available. 

On a recent matter in the AAT, Allens Associate, Tiernan Christensen, helped a Tamil Muslim man from Sri Lanka with a merits review of the administrative decision of the Minister of Home Affairs not to revoke the mandatory cancellation of his visa.

'Refugee Legal clients have been through a lot. The various bureaucratic processes required to secure a Temporary Protection Visa; or deal with the termination of a revoked visa; or any number of other judicial and administrative processes can be very confronting and are so significant to the individuals concerned,' Tiernan said.

'Given the current health situation, the Tribunal is hearing matters virtually so we had Tribunal representatives in Melbourne, me as a secondee solicitor in Sydney and our client in the Yongah Hill Detention Centre in Western Australia.

'Unfortunately the matter did not go in our client's favour and he is exploring a Federal Court appeal,' Tiernan said.

Tiernan completed this work as part of a part-time virtual secondment to Refugee Legal. Reflecting on the secondment, he said the experience has shown him the power of listening to a client as they tell their story.

"Being able to listen, understand and use our legal training to help clients navigate the system is really rewarding"

Tiernan Christensen


Empowering individuals to create meaningful change