Published on Tuesday 16, May 2017

Hannah Fesseha - IMCL's new graduate lawyer 

“Clumsy and easily distracted” is Hannah’s father, Fesseha’s, description of her as a young child. To bring her some focus, her parents enrolled her in martial arts.

Today, some 20 years later, she’s being admitted as a lawyer and her parents couldn’t be prouder. In part, Fesseha attributes her success to the mental and spiritual discipline learnt from years of karate training.

There’s no doubt that you need a fair dose of discipline to get through a law degree. But, that wasn’t the only attribute that motivated Hannah to complete her Melbourne University JD. It was her passion for social justice.

“My interest in studying and practising law largely comes from my belief in the fact that it can be a powerful vehicle for social change and justice. As I’ve become older, I’ve become more aware of the ways in which the law can disproportionately and unfairly impact the lives of individuals from diverse backgrounds or who are otherwise vulnerable. I think this is where I can have the most impact as a lawyer.”

Working in community law was a natural choice for Hannah. With a major in critical studies as part of her criminology undergraduate degree, she has a keen understanding of unconscious biases within legal systems and institutions and the importance of progressive legal advocacy to shed light on systemic flaws. She saw this playing out first hand within her own community, with the racial profiling of African young men, leading her to volunteer at Flemington Kensington Community Legal Centre on the Police Accountability Project. Seeing the limited voices contributing to the debate, she co-founded and co-directed a grass-roots organisation aimed at including the views of young African people.

This achievement is only one of many. For many years she has been committed to helping her community be heard. She’s developed programs with young girls from housing commission flats, interned with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Ethiopia, and has been a producer and presenter on the radio show African Australian Voice at 3CR Community Radio, exploring issues affecting young African Australians.

Her admission was moved by Jessica DeVries, Senior Lawyer at IMCL, with whom Hannah has been working closely for the last six months. We congratulate Hannah on her admission and warmly welcome her to our team. We are thrilled to be able to contribute to the training and development of Victoria’s newest generation of social justice legal professionals.