LLM student sees law as powerful tool for change

For Binny De Saram, it is the capacity of law and lawmakers to create social change that motivates her work as a policy solicitor and in her masters studies at Melbourne Law School.

Binny De Saram image

She attributes her desire to create social change to her parents.

“Throughout my childhood, my parents were very vocal about the fact that everyone has a duty to help,” Binny says.

After high school, Binny completed her Bachelors of Laws and Science at the University of Queensland. At the same time, she undertook internships with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia as well as the Queensland Public Interest Law Clearing House. According to Binny, law was a natural fit.

“I always saw the law as an amazing, dynamic process that could help effect broad systemic change. In essence, I really wanted to make a difference,” she says.

After a stint at the Australian Government Solicitor in the commercial team, Binny has worked the last eight years as a Senior Policy Solicitor at the Queensland Law Society, the peak body for legal practitioners in Queensland.

“In my role I do a lot of public interest lobbying. I get to work with a passionate group of legal practitioners to advocate to the Queensland and Federal governments for evidence-based, fair and practical policy and legislation.”

For Binny, the best element of her work is the variety of legal issues she comes across.

“One day I might be looking at the review of parole boards and the next day I might be making submissions regarding the Universal Periodic Review. When I first started, one of the former Corporate Secretary’s told me that you’ll never suffer from boredom at the Queensland Law Society – no truer words have been spoken!”

Recently, Binny has completed her last subject towards her Master of Laws at Melbourne Law School. One of her main motivations for returning to study was to gain new skills and knowledge to take back to her job.

“I use the material learnt in my LLM quite a bit in my current role. Some recent examples include the review of the Criminal Code Amendment (War Crimes) Bill 2016 (Cth) where we were required to determine the Bill’s compliance with the international human rights and international humanitarian law regimes.”

For Binny, one of the most exciting elements of the degree is getting to learn from academics and practitioners whose work she can cite directly in submissions.

“One of the most useful and practical theories I have learnt about was from Gráinne de Búrca who co-taught Reimagining Human Rights Law. Gráinne’s literature on the theory of Experimentalist Governance is simply brilliant and has informed many of my policy submissions, including submissions on the Drug and Specialist Courts.”

However, an unexpected perk of the degree has been taking part in completely new projects which evoke meaningful and long-term change.

“As a part of my LLM at the University of Melbourne I was fortunate to work with Open Society Justice Initiative in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. This non-governmental organisation supports the work of the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia.”

Outside of law, Binny likes to travel with her husband and two daughters.

“This year we made our fourth trip to Italy which is food (and coffee!) heaven. Walking the steets of Italy, visiting art galleries and churches, eating prosciutto and drinking wine is my idea of a good time.”

“My favourite trip was to Egypt and Jordan. We dream of going back but until then, we satisfy our interest by watching documentaries and visiting museums!”

By Blake Connell

Find out more about the Melbourne Law Masters