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Law Council of Australia


Interview 2023 Australian Young Lawyer Award Winner Ms Palwasha Nawabi

What does it mean to you to be awarded the 2023 Australian Young Lawyer Award?

To be recognised by my colleagues and fellow peers for my contribution in legal work centred around humanitarian assistance is an honour. I take pride in being awarded the 2023 Australian Young Lawyer Award and in joining an esteemed group of young lawyers, who like me, joined the legal profession with an aspiration to make a positive impact in our society. 

Assisting the international legal community and advocating for those who work towards justice and the rule of law is a distinction on its own, but to also be recognised for my legal contribution in an area of law which I am passionate about, is truly encouraging as a young lawyer.  

Leading Immigration Solutions Lawyers’ pro bono initiative to obtain temporary visas and subsequent permanent residence visas for the Afghan Women Judges, Prosecutors and Activists and their families, enabled me to work with some of the most distinguished names in the international legal community in order to advocate and provide a voice for the most vulnerable amongst the international community.

Over the course of your career so far, what are some of the key highlights you are most proud of?

I am most proud of my work for the Afghan Women Judges, Prosecutors, Activists, and their families which began towards the end of 2021. I was able to take a leading role in managing Immigration Solutions Lawyers’ pro bono initiative in advocating for those who stand for the rule of law. 

Alongside my Principal Anne O’Donoghue, I was able to draft a compelling case to the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs to obtain 90 emergency Temporary Safe Haven Humanitarian Stay – Subclass 449 visas in critical circumstances, whereby the applicants had evacuated Afghanistan and where given permission to remain in Greece temporarily on the basis of finding a home country. The women and their families had been evacuated through the efforts of Baroness Helena Kennedy KC and the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute.

My involvement in the Australian visa operations side of the project allowed me to work with some of the most inspiring international advocates namely, Baroness Helena Kennedy KC and Emily Foale. Throughout 2022, the project expanded to assist family members that had been left behind. In April 2022, I led a team of my colleagues in submitting permanent residency applications for the women and their families that chose to remain in Australia. These applications were most challenging, and I commend the efforts of my team who worked tirelessly, namely Jane Liu, Vicky Chen and Chiara Napoli. Our efforts were met with great success as we were able to obtain the required visas, effectively enabling the families to settle permanently in a safe place. The pro bono project continued in 2023 assisting in settlement issues and family member applications.  

What’s next? What do you aspire to do in 2024 and beyond?

Having been admitted into practice relatively recently in 2022, I am looking forward to a fulfilling legal career, whereby I seek to continue to create further positive change and impact to peoples’ lives. To be a lawyer is to be an advocate, and I intend to use my voice and advocacy skills to provide representation for those who are most vulnerable in the community.

From your perspective, what are some of the key legal issues and challenges the legal profession needs to focus on, particularly for young lawyers?

A key issue affecting our legal profession is the ability to navigate, balance and successfully utilise a hybrid working environment. Particularly during the pandemic, the legal profession observed a significant transformation to the definition of a regular law office. Nevertheless, it is important to note that whilst having flexibility, we must still maintain and deliver competent legal services to clients.

This further ties in with the need to maintain a work-life balance. As lawyers it is usual for us to overwork ourselves to the extent that it affects our mental health. For young and upcoming lawyers, it can be an overwhelming adjustment, therefore it is crucial to surround yourself with fellow peers and colleagues that not only value work, but also value a work-life balance to maintain good mental health and well-being. From a wholistic perspective, a content lawyer who enjoys their work-life will inevitably perform better.

Furthermore, it can be terrifying and somewhat overwhelming for young upcoming lawyers to get involved in complex legal matters at work. However, with the right mentor and support system, opting into such challenges is not only rewarding but also enables young lawyers to expand their legal skill set early on.