Stateless Legal Clinic

Subject offered Semester 1 in 2024

Citizenship to me means protection and certainty for my children. Without it, I fear they have no future. Amir, stateless Palestinian father of four

What is the Stateless Legal Clinic?

The Stateless Legal Clinic (SLC) offers students the opportunity to develop their practical legal skills while making a real difference to the lives of stateless adults and children living in the Australian community. There are an estimated 10-15 million stateless people in the world; approximately one third are children. Without nationality, stateless people face barriers in accessing basic rights, and in Australia, the threat of prolonged or indefinite detention.

In this Clinic, students will support lawyers working with stateless clients to provide direct assistance to stateless children and adults, in a range of matters including applications for Australian citizenship (through the Stateless Children Program stream), and visa cancellations (through the Stateless Adults Program stream). Complementary seminars will include theoretical and practical components relevant to clinic work and statelessness law; offering students a solid theoretical understanding of statelessness at the global and national level, as well as practical skills-based training focused on working directly with stateless clients. This subject will also focus on careers in statelessness law and international law, with a range of guest speakers joining the students to share their career journeys.

View handbook entry

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 Stateless Children Legal Clinic (SCLC) to oversee and support its development and operation.

In Fadi’s words –

Fadi Chalouhy
Fadi Chalouhy

"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."

What will I learn?

SLC involves real work, with real clients – with real results.

Students enrolled in the SLC will:

  • Gain an enhanced understanding of and capacity to utilise the practical and technical skills needed to provide legal assistance to stateless adults and children, including in the areas of interviewing, research, advocacy, communication and file management
  • Acquire an enhanced understanding of, and capacity to utilise the personal attributes and ethical awareness needed to provide legal assistance to stateless adults and children
  • Obtain advanced knowledge of statelessness law (international and domestic)
  • Develop the ability to apply relevant statelessness law to individual client situations
  • Develop a capacity to engage in legal practice in this area.

"Interning at the Stateless Children Legal Centre 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

What will I do in the clinic?

Students will undertake 12 days of clinical work based at Melbourne Law School under the supervision of the Clinic Coordinator Katie Robertson and partner organisations. During the clinic and under supervision, students will utilise the legal knowledge and skills acquired during their degree to undertake work on legal issues with real clients, and in doing so, will be exposed to the realities of legal practice. The clinical work will be conducted through regular, scheduled attendances throughout semester.

Students’ practical work will be complemented by 12 two-hour seminars during semester (held on clinic days), which will focus on both practical skill development and theoretical understandings of statelessness law.

Without access to free legal support, this process would be very difficult; I don’t think we could do it on our own. Aisha, stateless Rohingya mother of one

Where will this take me?

This subject will give you unique practical legal training. You will engage directly with clients and gain valuable skills in client communication, working with interpreters and file management. These are skills that are essential for practising lawyers and are highly valued by employers. It will also give you specialised knowledge of statelessness law, refugee rights and international human rights law. This knowledge and expertise will make students competitive candidates for employment in both public and private legal practices.

RACS senior solicitor Ahmad Sawan with 2022 SCLC students
RACS senior solicitor Ahmad Sawan with 2022 SCLC students
Katie Robertson

About your coordinator

Katie Robertson brings over 10 years practical legal experience to her role at the Melbourne Law School in human rights, public interest litigation and the community legal sector both in Australia and overseas. Prior to joining the Melbourne Law School, Katie worked at the Human Rights Law Centre, in Maurice Blackburn’s Social Justice Practice, the Aboriginal Legal Service in Central Australia, and at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. Through her work on behalf of refugees and people seeking asylum in Australia, Katie developed a particular interest in the rights of stateless children. In 2021, she founded the Stateless Children Legal Clinic, with support from the Hiam Chalouhy Grant (The Cameron Foundation). She is proud to lead the Clinic’s work in assisting stateless children to obtain Australian citizenship. Katie is also co-chair of the Stateless Children Australia Network, a network aimed at developing knowledge regarding stateless children in Australia and increasing pathways to legal assistance.

How do I apply?

Melbourne Law School Clinics recommend that students interested in the Statelessness Legal Clinic attend one of our clinic information sessions aimed at providing key information and answering any questions students may have about the subject.

Information sessions and application details will be announced on the Canvas LMS JD Community.

Login to the LMS