Brisbane, AUSTRALIA: President of the Fiji Law Society, Ms Laurel Vaurasi, shared her wisdom and inspired current and aspiring legal professionals through the Pasifika Lawyers Association of Queensland Inc’s (PLAQ) inaugural lecture, in a new lecture series titled, “Sounds of Our Oceans”.
PLAQ President, Mr Tile Imo, Senior Lawyer with Caxton Legal Centre, opened up the session with an acknowledgement of country. He explained that the title of the series was inspired by a quote from the late Tongan writer and anthropologist, Epeli Hau’ofa, who declares “We should not be defined by the smallness of our islands, but by the greatness of our oceans. We are the sea, we are the ocean. Oceania is us.” Mr Imo hoped “that this series can inspire and challenge future and current legal minds of the Pacific by hearing directly from the wealth of experiences and knowledge of Pacific Island leaders”. Those that attended hailed not only from Brisbane, but also from Kenya, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Canberra and Sydney.
Ms Vaurasi shared of her humble beginnings, which she viewed as an advantage and a form of character building. Always remembering where she came from, she opined that humility is an advantage in this profession. Her close knit Rotuman family and faith strengthened her resilience to study law, especially when she moved away from the comforts of her home in Fiji to the Gold Coast to embark on her journey in the law. Ms Vaurasi completed her law degree at Bond University, later admitted to the Supreme Court of Queensland in November 1996, followed by her Master of Laws from QUT in December 1997 and admitted to the High Court of Australia in August 1998.
Attendees were also moved by her tell all tales of starting her own law firm in April 2009, Shekinah Law, during a trying time when the Constitution of Fiji was abrogated. Ms Vaurasi spoke of her faith in God, blessing her through these difficult times, relying not only on her experience, professionalism and networks, but most importantly her trust in God and that being a lawyer was her calling.
Ms Vaurasi put to the audience, that as legal professionals, “we stand on the shoulders of giants.Persuasion is not about raising your voice.It’s about knowing the law and the file.Preparation is key!” She reminded the audience of the importance of the role lawyers play in providing access to justice for the vulnerable.
“We are all part of this justice system. Instruments of the justice system. When I don’t prepare, I affect someone’s life.”
A key component of the evening was the golden gems that Ms Vaurasi shared with those that attended the PLAQ inaugural session of Sounds of Our Oceans, some of which are listed below:
Everything has its season; we are to strive to acquire as much as we can for the benefit of those we serve through our legal professions.
It is not about the titles or the money but about our responsibilities to be used as tools of the justice system to ensure that people get a fair go.
Volunteering is key to giving back but also your way of going beyond to gain experiences and to up-skill, the titles and money will come in its own time but your hard work and commitment will pay off as your work will speak for itself.
Surrounding yourself with good friends – “Iron sharpens iron”.
Adopting a study planner and joining study groups.
Joining a law firm (volunteering) for the experience during university holidays. It’s not always the money, experience is what law students and graduates are after. The jobs will come later.
Joining a book club, not only to improve one’s English, but also to better improve ideas for assignments and meet new people.
Being genuine in your interactions with clients/people, not approaching networking with an agenda but being genuinely interested in hearing one's story, clients are the story tellers and lawyers are the ones that bring it together to find solutions.
The importance, as Pacific Islanders, to be aware and interested in the Pacific and to contribute and give back to our islands.
Continuing your professional development and learning.
Ms Vaurasi’s story also inspired those that attended to broaden their horizon. One of the challenges she reminisced on, included a lack of supervision. She stressed to senior practitioners the importance of being mentors. “Mentoring is invaluable. The need is glaring. It is a privilege to guide. You [as senior practitioners] must reach out to them [mentees].”
Ms Vaurasi also encouraged opportunities to mentor across borders, either across the States and Territories of Australia but also with those in the Pacific. She encouraged the audience that if we are to push for recognition on the world scale as Pasifika people working in this field, then we must be open to collaborate and assist.
PLAQ Student representative, Ms Osanna Faataape, stated her enthusiasm for more opportunities to meet and hear from other Pasifika professionals in the future.
“It is truly meaningful to see successful Pacific Islanders in the field, to hear of their journeys, to learn of the adversities they faced, and to celebrate their perseverance through it all – it empowers me to do the same,” Osanna said.
Ms Trina Faaiuaso, PLAQ Treasurer, Lawyer with the Office of the Director of Child Protection Litigation, also shared her favourite ‘take home’ from the night, resonating with Ms Vaurasi’s “personal relationship with God and prayers that He leads her to the connections that she needed to make, praying when feeling empty, and recognising this as the necessary foundation for her career”.
For more information and should you wish to view the webinar, please do not hesitate to contact us.
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