NSW Young Lawyers’ 2015 Young Lawyer of the Year is Besmellah Rezaee, 29. He arrived in Australia with his family at the age of 18 with limited English, after fleeing Afghanistan when he was 11. In 2012, he was a finalist for Young Australian of the Year in South Australia. In 2014, he received the inaugural John Gibson AM Award for the Young Migration Lawyer of the Year from the Law Council of Australia, recognising “the quality of his work nationally and internationally, his articles on human rights, migration and refugee law, and his considerable pro bono work”. JULIE MCCROSSIN reports on a young man’s advocacy for his community, asylum seekers onshore and offshore, and the rule of law.
Besmellah Razaee comes from a Hazara Shiite Muslim family and he speaks six languages – Dari, Persian, Urdu, Hazaragi, Pushto and English. When he answers my questions about his legal career and the impact of his years as a refugee on his career choices, every word of his response is carefully chosen and delivered with a measured tone and pace.
“I work with Playfair Visa and Migration Services as a supervising solicitor and also the head of legal training,” he says.
“My key duties are running legal outreach for regional NSW, regional Victoria, regional South Australia, and, to an extent, Queensland and Tasmania. We have legal outreach to the Northern Territory that another colleague manages. My other roles include supervising practical legal training of students and junior lawyers within the firm and we mainly deal with offshore and onshore refugee law.
“Ours is a medium-sized firm with a heavy focus on human rights law, refugee law and humanitarian issues, but we do some corporate work as well. Our main offices are in Sydney and Darwin and we have an office, of sorts, on Manus Island where we assist asylum seekers who have been transferred to Papua New Guinea (PNG).”