16 November 2021

Helping refugees from Afghanistan

By Nathan Kennedy and Andrew Banks

The Hall & Wilcox Pro Bono & Community Practice works to promote access to justice for people who otherwise could not access the legal system. We also work with community partners on law reform to better protect human rights in Australia. People we assist include people with a disability, refugees and asylum seekers, victims of wage theft, people who are homeless, older persons and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

We have been working with Refugee Legal and the Refugee Advice and Casework Service (RACS) to assist asylum seekers fleeing the tragic situation in Afghanistan. Our lawyers have provided more than 600 hours of pro bono work to assist with this urgent work since the crisis began.

A team of lawyers, graduates and other staff from across our Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne offices have provided ongoing assistance for the past two months to clients of Refugee Legal. These clients are either in Afghanistan or have managed to leave and go to a third country. We are assisting all the way from client intake through to providing advice on their options under Australia’s humanitarian visa program to helping them finalise their applications.

Through RACS, we provide legal advice to assist refugees in understanding Australia’s humanitarian and refugee visa options and work to help them in completing their applications. Each client is paired with a dedicated Hall & Wilcox lawyer.

The tragic escalation of the situation in Afghanistan in recent months has captured the attention of the world. In the face of a crisis so far away, it can be easy to feel that there is nothing any of us can do to make a difference. However, our pro bono partners, Refugee Legal and RACS, have led the way by mobilising the legal community to respond. Personally, I have been grateful that they have facilitated the opportunity for many people across Hall & Wilcox to assist clients displaced by the crisis. While the work can be challenging, it is also rewarding to do our part.’

– Andrew Banks, Lawyer in the Pro Bono & Community team

Hall & Wilcox also does broader refugee work. Secondees have assisted RACS with their work, based in Sydney. In Melbourne, we have an ongoing and popular clinic where our lawyers and graduates assist asylum seekers generally.

We also assist with fundraising. Earlier in 2021, we launched HW Community Giving, which allows our people to use payroll giving to assist our 11 charity partners.

‘Providing access to justice is fundamental to the rule of law and essential to the work of lawyers who are the guardians of it. We encourage our lawyers to participate in our pro bono practice not only to fulfil this professional obligation but to become better lawyers. They have opportunities and experiences, and learn skills they will not necessarily find in their commercial work; and yet these skills enhance their ability to service their commercial clients. The result is the best lawyers serving our clients and the community. Our pro bono practice fulfils the firm’s purpose to enable our clients, our people and our communities to thrive.’

– Nathan Kennedy, Partner & Head of Pro Bono and Community

In FY21, we beat the National Pro Bono Target. We completed more pro bono work than ever before – 15,400 hours. Meeting this milestone is a reflection of the commitment our people make to achieve our purpose of enabling our clients, people and communities to thrive.


Nathan Kennedy

Nathan Kennedy

Partner, Head of Pro Bono & Community and ESG Co-Lead

Nathan is the firm's Head of Pro Bono & Community, his practice covers employment, administrative law and human rights.