Over our recent semester break, a group of Bond law students, including myself, went over to Cape Town, South Africa to provide free legal advice in a legal aid clinic to locals who can’t afford it. The Bond in Africa trip to Cape Town was an incredible adventure and provided all of us participants with an invaluable experience.
Upon returning to Australia, when people ask eagerly for stories about my trip I can’t help but reply with ‘where do I start?’ and sitting to write this blog is no different.
Since I was a child I have been passionate about social injustice. Like many children, I was introduced to the topic of poverty through the notion of fundraising money for ‘those poor people in Africa’. An old fashion and elitist view to poverty that had its heart in the right place but missed the essence of global development.
Growing up in the Australian Middle class, I found it difficult to comprehend social injustice and I could not appreciate the enormity of such an issue. I have since then travelled and worked with many organisations such as World Vision, Save the Children and UNICEF and my knowledge has broadened to understand and appreciate the challenges but also understand and appreciate the solutions to inequality.
South Africa, however, took my journey to a whole new level. In a country so scarred by brutality and segregation, we found such a wonderful sense of community and hope. The apartheid was a legalised racism and oppression, but it was also a legalised hierarchy and elitism that unfortunately still exists. Breaking down 50 years of enforced class systems is a monstrous task that we were fortunate enough to see the beginnings of.
With a new understanding of the connections and relationships between people, culture and the law, South Africa inspired me beyond my own expectations. The legal aid clinic in Cape Town has an enormous impact on the lives of its clients and on the greater community. Providing free legal advice and where possible, free legal services, to members of the community is an invaluable social service.
The South African ethos I believe is encompassed by the Xhosa word ‘Ubuntu’ which means people are not people without other people. This essence of community is something that is so intrinsically interwoven into the culture and it is an ethos that I wish would be embraced around the world.
We truly had created a home for ourselves in Cape Town, as the wordle suggests, and saying goodbye was difficult. Many of us are still trying to overcome jet-lag and what I am beginning to call Cape Town withdrawals. The jet-lag, however, will pass but the lessons we learnt from South Africa will stay with me forever and will continue to shape the way I view the developing world and the ever-present legal challenges that face those countries and communities.
One of our team members, Ed, echoes my sentiments most eloquently in one of his BUSA BAfrica blog posts; ‘Being exhausted has never felt so rewarding’.