Beyond Commercial Careers: Public Interest Law Careers Guide Launch

The Castan Centre for Human Rights Law and Progressive Law Network Proudly present

Beyond Commercial Careers: Public Interest Law Careers Guide Launch

This event was held online on 9 September 2021

To view this past event please click play on the video below:

Are you a law student or lawyer wondering what lies beyond the corporate law path? Are you interested in public interest law?

The Progressive Law Careers Guide is an online resource, and this free launch will be interactive, with the chance for you to hear from a panel of professionals working in areas such as human rights, government, and refugee law.

This guide will provide pivotal insight into further career pathways that are separate to the corporate law pathway. Pursuing a public interest law career can be very rewarding and highlight different challenges, especially as the world grapples with global issues such as climate change, political leadership, human rights abuses and geographical displacement.

There are many opportunities for lawyers in non-profit organisations, statutory bodies and government in Victoria but it is often hard to find out what they are. This new guide will present dozens of organisations for you to consider, plus testimonials from people who've made a career in public interest law work.

Takeaways from the event

(1) ‘Work with value’ — Professor the Hon. Kevin Bell.

  • In everything you do, find a way to piece together your creativity, values, skills and passions.
  • Live a rich life, even if it means stepping out of law.
  • Stay convicted in your belief that the law is a social instrument that must be and is capable of doing justice, especially for those who are most vulnerable.

(2)  Your career often will not proceed according to a perfect plan.

  • ‘Perfect plans are usually so perfect that they don’t work’ so aim to ‘get on the right freeway, not the right lane’ — David Manne.
  • Whatever your career looks like, you will need determination, drive and focus.

(3) Grasp opportunities and develop the fundamentals.

  • Develop yourself by volunteering in an area that brings your ideas and passions to life.
  • Learn the fundamental legal tools (torts, statutory interpretation, administrative law etc.) and use them to advance justice, regardless of whether you are in a public interest field.
  • ‘No experience is wasted’ — Zione Walker-Nthenda.
  • Employers are always looking for someone who has developed a unique skillset by engaging in their community; high grades are usually secondary.


Professor the Hon. Kevin Bell AM QC
Director of the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, Monash Law

Professor the Hon Kevin Bell AM QC is the Director of the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law in the Faculty of Law at Monash University. He was a justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria for fifteen years and wrote a number of leading judgments under the Victorian Charter of Human Rights, including Kracke, Patrick’s Case and PBU and NJE.  He was president of the Forensic Leave Panel and president of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal.  Before becoming a judge, Professor Bell was for twenty years a barrister and Queens Counsel with a national practise in human rights and administrative, native tile and constitutional law. He has a Master of Studies in International Human Rights Law from Oxford University and in 2017 was awarded the honour of Member of the Order of Australia for ‘significant service to the law and to the judiciary, to native title and human rights, and the community’.


Zione Walker, Principal Adviser in the Department of Premier and Cabinet

Zione is a lawyer, social entrepreneur and senior public servant. She is the co-founder of Incubate Foundation and founder of Change Architex. Zione has experience in systemic, structural and organisational change. She has worked at Victoria Police, Womens Legal Service, Victoria Legal Aid, the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service and now works as a Principal Adviser in the Department of Premier and Cabinet.


David Manne, Refugee Legal

David Manne is a human rights lawyer and Executive Director of Refugee Legal. He has worked in various capacities assisting refugees and asylum seekers for over 20 years. Since 2001 he has lead Refugee Legal’s legal teams in successfully arguing 10 out of 10 landmark High Court challenges.

David sat on the Board of the Refugee Council of Australia and currently sits on the Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture Ethics Committee and the Peter McMullin Centre on Statelessness Advisory Board.  He has been appointed to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Advisory Board of Eminent Persons.  He is regularly invited to present at the UN High Commissioner's Dialogue on Protection Challenges.

David has been the recipient of numerous prestigious awards and is frequently named as one of Australia’s leading immigration lawyers in the Australian edition of Best Lawyers.



Dr Maria O’Sullivan
Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, Monash Law