Pacific Legal Network is thrilled to number among its ranks two Australia Awards Scholarship Program recipients. I had the opportunity to chat with Sabrina and Laisani and hear some of their insights on life in Australia and the Australia Awards program.
Hailing from the Solomon Islands, Ms. Sabrina Habu has joined the PLN team as a part-time paralegal while completing a Bachelor of Laws majoring in Environmental Law and Management at Macquarie University in Sydney.
Joining the PLN gang for a brief stint, Ms. Laisani Macedru, a Fijian-lawyer currently working in the Investment Team at FNPF, completed a two-week work placement at PLN as part of the Australia Awards program. As part of her Australia Awards Scholarship, Laisani completed a Masters in Commercial Law at Monash University in Melbourne.
I assumed that both Sabrina and Laisani would be soaking up every spare moment in Australia at the shops, however when asked what is the best thing both women have experienced in Australia so far, I was surprised to learn it was in fact our beautiful outdoors that had ensnared the award recipients.
Laisani explained, "an unforgettable experience was when we went camping with Outward Bound, during winter. That took me out of my comfort zone as we had to go hiking with maps given to us as a group to find our way around the check points leading to the camp site. So for most of us, maps and GPS was a foreign thing and how to make sense of our bearings was another hurdle! What also stood out for me were the different types of leadership skills that were displayed and how different leadership traits would complement each other." Fortunately, some great leadership skills and natural instinct (which I'm sure Bear Grylls would be envious of) ensured that Laisani safely returned to another day in the office.
A new-comer to law (and also her very first part-time job!), Sabrina is the newest team member to join PLN. I asked Sabrina what the working life at PLN was all about and what she has been learning on the job. Sabrina told me, "as a first year student, in these short two months at PLN I have been given the opportunity to work at a law firm for the first time, in another country whilst dealing with matters from Solomon Islands and other pacific countries, which, is such a bonus… I have learned how to prepare memorandums and carry out research and I've even had an article I co-authored on climate change published!"
Beyond now being adept campers, both women are keen to apply their experiences from the Australia Awards program to their home countries, with Sabrina having her sights set on becoming the next top environmental lawyer in the Solomon Islands and Laisani eager to execute a number of projects within the legal sector in Fiji.
When asked Sydney or Melbourne, the jury was out, with Sabrina quick to exclaim "Sydney DUUHH!!", with Laisani more reserved in her choice saying she is a "Melbourne girl" – it was safe to say that neither offered Canberra as an alternative!
On a more serious note, having spent time with Sabrina and Laisani, the Australia Awards program has a far wider impact than just affecting the recipients. It's an opportunity for a cross-cultural exchange that improves our understanding of other people and how we can be more connected to our clients and other Pacific people.
Side note: The Australia Awards Scholarships Program is administered by the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. It aims to contribute to the development needs of Australia's partner countries in line with bilateral and regional agreements through providing opportunities for people located in the Indo-Pacific region to undertake study in Australia. For more information visit: https://dfat.gov.au/people-to-people/australia-awards/pages/australia-awards-scholarships.aspx