Family upskills in Commercial Law

Husband and wife Jimmy and Gertrude Elai have relocated to a new country to undertake their Master of Commercial Law at Melbourne Law School.

Jimmy and Getrude Elai
Master of Commercial Law students Jimmy and Getrude Elai

The couple, from Papua New Guinea, are studying under the Australia Awards – the Federal Government scholarships provided to international professionals and students to undertake study and research in Australia. 

Since arriving in January, the couple have made the most of their time at MLS. 

Before leaving PNG, Jimmy worked as an in-house lawyer for a superannuation organisation, and is focusing his studies on corporate law and finance.

Gertrude is focusing on natural resources, litigation and mediation, having worked as litigation counsel for a mining company, Barrick Gold.

"Here, it is very competitive, the standard is very hard, and we really need to put in the time to do well," Jimmy says.

"But there are a lot of resources available at our fingertips; everything is done online, which is really good."

Gertrude notes the support systems in place and the multicultural feel of MLS have made the transition back into the academic world much smoother.

"The academic support provided by the University - we don't have that back in our country. The staff are really friendly and I am really enjoying the mentor program," she says.

"I turned down another scholarship for this one but I think I have made the right choice."

Her husband emphatically agrees.

"I love this place."

Their educational experience and opportunities, however, have been marred by an agonising wait to be reunited with their three young children, with immigration restrictions preventing the trio from joining their parents in Australia. 

"It has been very difficult and very stressful.  We just hope that it ends soon as it is very tough. It is the longest we have ever been away from them – five months," Gertrude says.

Their two sons, aged 11 and 10, and daughter, aged seven, have had their visas delayed and are currently living with Jimmy's parents in PNG.

"It is the pressing issue weighing on us right now," Jimmy says.

Despite the difficult circumstances, Getrude maintains the Elais are not alone, with both members of the Law School community and her mentor assisting with immigration enquiries.

"It has been painful for us (but) that is our journey and we will get through this. There are a lot of friendly people who are willing to help us," she says.

"The Law School has been very helpful in assisting us and looking at ways we can get through our courses this semester."

"(Also), my mentor has emailed me to check up on my kids' visas and I did not expect that. I thought it was generally professional but she offered to enquire about what is happening and how the applications are coming along, and I am really grateful for that."

By Andy Walsh