Stateless Legal Clinic

The Stateless Legal Clinic (SLC) is a unique service providing legal education and aid to eligible stateless children in their application for Australian citizenship.

There are an estimated 10 – 15 million stateless people in the world; approximately one third are children. Without nationality, stateless children face barriers in accessing education and healthcare; and in Australia, the threat of prolonged and indefinite immigration detention and removal.

The Clinic stems from research and first-hand experience that indicates there is a critical unmet legal need for stateless children in Australia.

It is the first stateless legal clinic of its kind in Australia, and the third of its kind globally.

We acknowledge and pay respect to the Traditional Owners of the lands upon which we work.

Fadi Chalouhy childhood photo
Fadi Chalouhy as a young child with his mother Hiam Chalouhy

Our Partners and Supporters

The SLC was established in 2021, as a proud partnership between the Peter McMullin Centre on Statelessness, the Refugee Advice Casework Service (RACS) and the Melbourne Law School (MLS) Clinics at the University of Melbourne.

The Clinic’s work is made possible thanks to the generous support of the Cameron Foundation.

The grant has been named in honor of Hiam Chalouhy, the mother of stateless person Fadi Chalouhy, who now resides in Australia. Mr Chalouhy is the first stateless person to be granted an Australian skilled migrant visa through the ‘Talent Beyond Boundaries’ program and works closely with the SLC to oversee and support its development and operation.

In Fadi’s words -

‘My mother raised me on her own and faced an uphill battle for a quarter of a century trying to register me as a stateless child. Despite being poor and uneducated, she still managed to provide me with an education and a decent living. From 1991 to 2016, she exhausted all avenues in her attempt to end my statelessness, including contacting politicians, participating in women's rights protests and seeking help from lawyers. Unfortunately, she passed away in 2016 after losing her battle with cancer, 3 years before I made it to Australia where I am now a permanent resident. This grant was made to honor her sacrifices and the 25-year-old struggle she endured, attempting to give me - her child - the most basic of human rights; an identity.

For 25 years my mother and I struggled to find answers or even understand what statelessness is, and how to fight it. This clinic will give every mother and child currently in this situation a fighting chance.

Katie Robertson
Katie Robertson

Our people

The SLC was established by Katie Robertson, who leads the Clinic’s work. Katie is a lawyer with previous experience in acting for stateless children to successfully apply for Australian citizenship. She also co-chairs the Stateless Children Australia Network, a network aimed at developing knowledge regarding stateless children in Australia and increasing pathways to legal assistance.

Sarah and Ahmad
Sarah Dale & Ahmad Sawan

The clinical work conducted by students in the SLC is supervised by solicitors Ahmad Sawan and Sarah Dale at the Refugee Advice Casework Service (RACS). Sarah Dale is also co-chair of the Stateless Children Australia Network.

RACS’ Stateless Children Legal Project is the only specialized legal clinic in Australia providing targeted assistance to stateless children.

Opportunities for Students

The Clinic offers MLS Juris Doctor (JD) students the opportunity to develop practical legal skills and directly assist in the delivery of essential legal services to stateless children in their application for Australian citizenship, with tangible and life changing outcomes.

Student experience –

‘My semester at the Stateless Children Legal Clinic has been the most impactful experience in my degree. The clinic taught me so much about lawyering in practice and allowed me to develop so many important skills that I will take forth into my future career. Katie’s oversight, as well as having my own clients, meant that there was a great balance between useful supervision and independence. Being able to hear from the lived experience of stateless individuals, as well gain career advice from professionals working in the field, has also been invaluable and given me a completely new perspective. Overall, being able to make a difference in my clients’ lives was definitely the highlight of my experience and has produced memories that I will cherish forever.’ – Anna, (JD student)

‘The clinic has been one of the most rewarding experiences during law school. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to learn more about statelessness in Australia and recognise the importance of lawyers in this space to assist what is such a vulnerable sector of the community. My experience at the clinic in helping stateless children to obtain citizenship has opened my eyes to the need for reform to ease the process as well as has allowed me to develop meaningful relationships with clients and further develop my legal practical skills.’ – Georgina, (JD student)

‘Interning at the Stateless Children Legal Clinic gave me the chance to contribute my skills and experience to meaningful legal work that helped produce real world outcomes for our clients. Working at the Clinic not only showed me the daily human-impact of law and its practice, but also allowed me to be a part of the life-changing work community based legal services provide. As a student, it was a privilege to be able to work with someone like Katie who is leading the charge in the fight to end statelessness in Australia. Getting hands-on practical work with clients at the Clinic, particularly where the work has such a profound impact, will be the highlight of my education.’ – Connor, (JD student)

‘Working at the Stateless Legal Clinic has been one of the highlights of my time at Melbourne Law School. It has been an immensely rewarding experience to directly assist stateless families with their children's citizenship applications. Working with clients, with the supervision, support and guidance of Katie Robertson, has also afforded me the opportunity to greatly grow my practical and technical legal skills.’ – Sophie, (JD student)

‘Interning at the Stateless Children Legal Clinic has been an experience unparalleled with anything else in my three years at law school. The opportunity to engage first-hand with clients has equipped me with a wealth of practical legal skills, and provided me with humbling insights into the challenges faced by stateless persons in Australia.’ – Claudia, JD student

‘It is amazing to know that I am making such a big difference in the children's lives while also gaining valuable knowledge and experience. The internship exceeded my expectations. I loved being able to lead and learn at the same time. I enjoyed being assigned clients and working with them. It was such an amazing experience. Being supervised by Katie during my internship made me feel supported and motivated. Through Katie and the statelessness clinic I was able to become familiar with an issue that is widespread in Australia and requires urgent attention.’ -  Zahraa, JD student

SCLC interns

Prospective JD students interested in learning more can register their interest in the Clinic by completing the online registration form available here.

Aust citizenship form

Learn more

Links –

Read –

Watch -

With thanks to VMLY&R for producing this incredible video, pro bono

In the news

Read -

  • Lawyers Weekly, 'Melbourne law students asked to assist stateless children,'  Naomi Neilson 20 September 2021 (view here)
  • SBS News, ‘We need to do more to help stateless children realise their right to Australian citizenship,’ (K Robertson & S Dale) 25 March 2021 (view here)
  • The Guardian, ‘Somewhere to Call Home – helping stateless children realise their right to Australian citizenship,’ Ben Doherty, 25 March 2021 (view here)
  • ABC News, ‘Legal Clinic to Count Australia’s Stateless People as it Helps to Give Children a Place to Call Home,’ Max Chalmers, 25 March 2021 (here)

Listen –

  • ABC Radio National, ‘The Stateless Children Born in Australia,’ 20 January 2022 (listen here)

Further Information

For further general enquiries regarding the SLC, please contact clinic coordinator Katie Robertson -

To register your interest in the Clinic or to stay updated regarding developments on the issue of child statelessness in Australia, submit your details here.

Prospective JD students interested in learning more can register their interest in the Clinic by completing the online registration form available here.

See also:
Melbourne Law School Clinics
The Refugee Advice Casework Service