Raziq looks to law to make a real difference and give back
A decade ago, Raziq Qasimi arrived in Australia, a Hazara teen who had fled ethnic persecution in his war-torn homeland Afghanistan.
Now 23, Raziq is working as a Queensland District Court judge’s associate, having graduated from QUT at the end of last year with his Bachelor of Law (Honours) and Bachelor of Justice (majoring in policy and governance).
He is understandably proud of what he has achieved, but still has the occasional ‘I have to pinch myself’ moment.
“My life has certainly changed dramatically and significantly,” he said. “It is extraordinary how lives can change in such a way. I didn’t know I had the potential to get into university and I didn’t know I had the potential to become a lawyer.
“It’s part of human nature that you can look to challenge yourself. With hard work, dedication and commitment you can achieve things. Support, lots of support, is a big facet too, having good people around you encouraging you and pushing you when it’s needed.”
Becoming a lawyer wasn’t really on Raziq’s radar back in 2010 when he came to live with his older brother, who had sought asylum in Australia several years earlier. He knew that he wanted to improve his English and education, embrace opportunities and change his life for the better. He just didn’t know what that change would look like.
He started his schooling at Milpera State High School in Chelmer, an Intensive English Language school for newly arrived young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds, then won a scholarship to study years 11 and 12 at Brisbane Grammar School.
At school the idea of studying justice and law started to take shape – a choice influenced by the suffering he had witnessed growing up, and his desire to make a contribution to the community. The Hazara, an ethnic group native to central Afghanistan, have been marginalised and persecuted for many years. They were particularly targeted by the Taliban and Islamic State forces, with mass killings documented by human rights groups.
“I fundamentally believe law is about helping people and making the world a better place for everyone,” Raziq said.
“Wanting to make a difference is important to me, and I thought that there is a lot you can do with a degree in law.
“I started off doing my Bachelor of Justice. I talked to someone in the School of Justice and said I was interested in doing law, but not sure. They said, ‘Let’s enrol you in a couple of law subjects in semester 2 and if you don’t like it you can opt out and continue with justice’. I enjoyed those subjects and so I continued with both degrees.”
Support through the QUT Law Founder’s Scholarship, available to first-year law students, helped ease financial pressures and allowed Raziq to focus on his studies.
His desire to pay forward the support he received has seen him volunteer with many Brisbane non-profit organisations working with refugees. He serves on the board of the Queensland Program of Assistance to Survivors of Torture and Trauma (QPASTT) and last year represented the organisation at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Consultation in Geneva, Switzerland.
As a QUT Faculty of Law Ambassador he supported students during Orientation Week and visited schools across Queensland, talking with students about potential study paths and studying law at QUT. Last year he was awarded a QUT Student Leadership Excellence Award.
One of the reasons he chose to study at QUT was its reputation for providing practical, real-world learning. The networking events organised with legal practitioners and members of the judiciary he said were a particular highlight, and he enjoyed his placements at the Justice Centre Hong Kong and with law firms Salvos Legal Humanitarian, Clayton Utz and Mills Oakley.
It was talking with colleagues and friends who had worked as judges’ associates that piqued his interest in applying for his current District Court position.
“It’s an invaluable, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of the court processes, and to observe and learn from some of the best advocates in the courtroom,” he said. “To see how they argue their cases and put their submissions to the court.”
Raziq’s associate position is for 12 months, and he is weighing up options for his next career step.
“I have a number of options. It’s a hard call in some ways. I want to do something that’s rewarding, where I feel I can make a difference. That could be in several areas. I am yet to make a decision.”
For school students thinking about university and studying law, Raziq has this advice: “Speak to as many people as possible about the degree you want to do. The great thing about university is you can start a degree and, if it doesn’t suit you, you can always change. Never be scared to give new things a try.
“QUT offers flexibility of course delivery with part-time study, and lectures and course material available online if you can’t get to some classes.
“University is fantastic, it’s one of the greatest periods of your life where you see the growth in yourself and also an opportunity to make lots of friends.
“There are challenges with law studies but also lots of rewards. The support I received at QUT, from lecturers, tutors and staff, was tremendous and there are countless support services available at faculty level and across the university.”