Issue 130: September 2018
Introducing Trent Wallace
I’m not one for talking about myself in third person, so hi! My name is Trent and I am fortunate enough to be on secondment from the Australian Government Solicitor at the Australian Pro Bono Centre.
At my birth, I went six minutes without oxygen and had an Apgar score of three for the first ten minutes of my life. Dr’s told my parents I was unlikely to survive, and if I did, I would have severe brain damage. I made friends with adversity and rebellion at an early age it seems. As an Aboriginal male, statistics reflected that I was more likely to be imprisoned than to be formally educated. This pained me to read, but I found a purpose in these sad statistics. Studying via distance education, I completed my Bachelor of Laws and went on to The College of Law to attain my Graduate Diploma. Having a purpose meant I could navigate through difficult personal circumstances, no excuse was going to deter me from succeeding. I undertook over 500 hours of volunteer work at the Central Coast Community Legal Centre (CCCLC). It was at the CCCLC where I met the incredible Bobbi Murray, a woman who is the embodiment of what it is to be a proud Aboriginal person.
As a volunteer, I observed many devastating cases from a plethora of marginalised people. I was their first point of communication as I triaged their matters, often hearing rage and distress from those feeling disempowered. When someone talks, it is a reflection of where their heart and state of mind is at, and how we respond dictates the progress we can make. It was a personal goal of mine to leave the caller smiling or laughing by the end of our discussion, and I am happy to report that I was largely successful in this.
Law taught me the power of policies and procedures, but it was at the CCCLC that I learnt the power of a kind word and sympathetic ear – sometimes people don’t fit into excel spreadsheets and guidelines. Further to this, I noticed large gaps of unmet legal need. I knew my future would have to involve addressing such issues, so when I was contacted by Geetha Nair from the Australian Government Solicitor for this job opportunity, I knew it was meant for me. As a newly admitted Solicitor, I know many of us are keen to just take on any job to gain an income and experience. However, it is important to stay true to your passions and never sacrifice them for a paycheck. When I was a child, I remember asking my Nana if she was “rich”. She asked me what I meant by rich – was she rich in a financial/possessions sense? or rich in love, compassion and personality? I know we can have both, but speaking from experience, I know that her latter explanation of rich is what I strive for.
At the Australian Pro Bono Centre, I see countless names of admirable legal practitioners seeking to address the gap. At the forefront of such a movement are the people who mentor me: John Corker, Gabriela Christian-Hare and Sue Hunt. Having mentors like these in your corner is an immense privilege that I don’t take for granted. They play to my strengths but they also provide me with new lessons daily. It is important to have a supportive workplace where your individuality is embraced and your diversity isn’t just used for HR purposes. This incredible opportunity would not have been possible if it wasn’t for Geetha Nair. I thank her for believing in me and providing me with a position like this.
The work I have done has exposed me to some incredibly dark features of humanity, but I also now see the beauty – legal giants stepping in and up for the downtrodden. I know that I will be able to make a meaningful contribution here at the Australian Pro Bono Centre and I look forward to seeing the outcomes.
Meet the rest of the Centre’s staff here.
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AUSTRALIAN PRO BONO NEWS