My name is Nikkie and I have just recently completed my undergraduate Law and Biomedical Science double degree at Monash University and will be beginning my journey as a graduate lawyer this year.
I am an Asian Australian. My parents moved from Shanghai almost three decades ago to start their family in Australia. English is their second language and this was my biggest qualm growing up. I remember starting prep and having to ask our neighbours what the word “bulldozer” meant. I remember all the English-Chinese and Chinese-English dictionaries scattered around our house but not seeing them at any of my friends’ houses. But essentially, my parents taught me everything but English. I remember my mum telling me to always work hard and that everything I achieve will be because of my own efforts. Despite all of this, I know that my successes were and are built through the morals my parents instilled in me and on the back of their own sacrifices. Their roots defined a huge part of how I grew up and who I’ve become. Nonetheless, I know my story is not unique - it is true for many other people of colour.
In one of my first corporate experiences, I was fortunate enough to work under the supervision of a well-known and highly experienced lawyer. His team was filled with some great brains. They were efficient, with incredible communication skills, analytical minds and just wonderful people overall.
I will always remember the first meeting I attended.
We were briefing barristers in our efforts to prepare for trial. I was invited to come along, listen, learn and take notes. And boy was I excited! A real life case and real life issues to be solved. The experience was genuinely everything I had hoped for. They spoke fast and succinctly, worked their way through countless pre-prepared documents, challenged each other respectfully and raised points of law that really went way over my head.
I just remember being slightly surprised when I walked into that meeting room. Everyone around the table was Caucasian and male. I didn’t doubt that they would be insanely good at what they did. I knew they were all highly trained and extremely sought after members of the legal profession. In hindsight, I realized I doubted my own worth to be in that room. I felt like the lone post-it note on a stack of A4 pages. Never had I ever felt so young, so female and so Asian.
Experiences like my own highlight the need for organizations like DWMA.
I applied for DWMA towards the end of 2017 and have since taken part in various programs. To me, it seems silly to not raise my hand for such an interesting array of initiatives when they are blatantly being offered to us. For example, the first Observation Day at the Supreme Court of Victoria, the Intellectual Property Workshop held in collaboration with Corrs Chambers Westgarth as well as the Personal and Executive Presence Workshop run by the incredible Mim Bartlett. I was also partnered up with a mentor – a junior lawyer who I have loved getting to know and seeking advice from. These events and the spirited nature of DWMA have helped me become more confident. It has honestly been wonderful to feel supported while going into a profession where terms such as the “glass ceiling” and the “bamboo ceiling” still exist.
I was once told that the legal profession is a slow moving beast. Change will happen gradually. Diversity is just one such aspect that is bound to eventually grow and it is and has been inspiring to be part of that change.