Growing up in a Kenyan refugee camp, South Sudanese Daniel Ajak didn’t believe university would be part of his future. But aged 13, he and his sister Rebecca arrived in Adelaide where he was inspired by his uncle who was studying engineering.
After studying law at Flinders University, Daniel Ajak (LLB/LP/BCom ’15) became a defence lawyer for Victoria Legal Aid and co-founded the African Australian Legal Network with his colleagues and local law students. He is also now a Director at Ajak, Wolan and Tut Lawyers.
‘I wanted to be like my father back in South Sudan, who was an advocate and counsel for our tribe and community whenever there were disputes,’ says Daniel. ‘I am now doing what my father does, but in a common law system.’
At Flinders, Daniel developed a strong support network with other law students from South Sudan, along with University staff and lecturers, who he is still in contact with. He found the Flinders Legal Advice Clinic, staffed by law students under the supervision of qualified legal practitioners, to be incredibly helpful in applying his knowledge and supporting his studies.
‘It gave me my first shot of applying the law to real life problems in a safe space and cemented my belief that I was destined for the court room and legal practice,’ says Daniel.
After graduating Daniel was admitted as a solicitor and a day later began working as a lawyer at Thomson Geer in Adelaide. However, in 2017 after seeing regular media coverage on African youth crime in Melbourne, he felt called to move to Victoria to be a role model for the younger people in his South Sudanese community.
‘I felt obliged to assist these kids and to give back to my community,’ says Daniel. ‘There were no South Sudanese or African Australian lawyers in the Magistrates Court or the Children’s Court of Victoria, and I felt that we needed to be represented in court room.’
Daniel is proud of co-founding the African Australian Legal Network and its support for local law professionals, including four of its members receiving paid clerkships at Victoria Legal Aid in crime, civil and family practice.
‘My greatest achievement so far is creating opportunities for aspiring law students and graduates from my community to get a foot in the door,’ says Daniel. ‘I am overwhelmed with joy that something I co-founded with my colleagues is paying off.’
Daniel is proud of achieving his law degree, being able to give back to the community and setting up his own law firm – which he hopes will become a national practice and eventually extend to South Sudan and East Africa.
He says, ‘I use my law degree every day to impact positive change in society.’
Daniel Ajak was awarded a 2020 Early Career Alumni Award for his significant contribution to the African-Australian community in Australia, including the development of professional networks and advocacy for African-Australian legal students. Read more about the Flinders University Alumni Awards