First-year refugee lawyer takes aim to change the world
Posted on 10 Jan. 2010
For most young would-be lawyers, being offered a job at a law firm is both a terrifying and exciting experience - and certainly a dream come true.
Kot Monoah is no different. Just two weeks into his summer clerkship with Slater and Gordon, he was offered a permanent role at the firm's Sunshine office, working in personal injuries. Like other young first-year lawyers, Kot, 28, is passionate about the law. But that's where the similarities between this young man and his fellow clerks end.
Kot was born in southern Sudan, but was forced to flee with his family at only four years of age. He saw people from his community killed in gunfire and explosions as the National Islamic Front attacked his hometown. The family of eight moved to Ethiopia, until war broke out there too, three years later.
Kot and his family walked for months, day and night, through the deserts of Africa to reach Kenya, where he arrived as a refugee.
Living in refugee camps in the Kenyan outback for 12 years until the age of 22, Kot is no stranger to hardship. He has survived attacks by lions, leopards, hyenas, buffalos, bears, and many other wild animals. He has survived deafening artillery, gunfire and aerial bombardments. He has survived living in communities plagued by cholera, malaria, meningitis and other diseases. He has survived shelterless camping and sleeping on raining nights on wet earth.
Kot and his family continuously applied to the Australian government for a humanitarian visa. Finally, in 2004, their salvation came through. Kot enrolled in a Bachelor of Law at Victoria University in 2005, and was admitted as a solicitor this October.
Kot was not a regular, everyday student when he was in law school. Dedicated to his studies, the high achiever was consistently rewarded with solid results. He is passionate about the law and using it to help disempowered people in the community.
"I've gone through a lot in my life and always feel that we should help the underprivileged in our society," Kot said.
"I felt when I started doing my undergraduate degree that I wanted to make a difference in someone's life. As a lawyer, you're able to advocate and argue the best case possible for people facing certain issues.
"Slater and Gordon is a firm that I believe works for people's rights, and people facing a lot of challenges in their lives."
Kot speaks four languages - Kiswahili (spoken by the Swahili people), Sudanese-Arabic, Dinka (a dialect spoken by the Dinka people of southern Sudan) and English.
He hopes this huge step forward in his career will give him a chance to help change the world. With the type of life experience and dedication to the law that Kot has, he certainly won't have any troubles achieving his dreams.
Cath Evans, Slater and Gordon Victorian state manager, said the firm would appoint 12 new graduates to start in 2011.
"The firm is committed to engaging more fluently with the community by employing staff from every culture and background represented in Australia," she said.
"Kot brings so much more than legal know-how and dedication to his new role at Slater and Gordon - he also brings a lifetime of experience, understanding and passion."
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