From Australia to the world and back
Vicki Salkin completed a Masters of International Law at the ANU College of Law and has had a diverse career that includes stints at the local and federal government levels, and experiences overseas working on humanitarian causes in the Middle East and North Africa.
In the past year, Vicki has been back in Australia working for Anglican Aid. She shared with us some of her experiences overseas and how the ANU College of Law played a part in her journey.
Can you tell us about your career path since graduating from ANU?
My career path since graduating from ANU has been an exciting one, full of unexpected twists and turns. First, I worked as a lawyer for the Australian Government for about 20 years. This included a very interesting time in the ACT Government, working in the Government Solicitor's Office and the Legislative Assembly.
Things became even more interesting after I departed the Australian Government. I returned to the ANU for some more language training, and ended up doing linguistics, history, French, Arabic and other engrossing subjects. This led seamlessly to a move to the UK to serve with Middle East Concern (MEC). I conducted advocacy for those suffering human rights abuses in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), meeting with governments and politicians around the world. I also connected with refugee lawyers, and others helping those who were suffering in MENA. Then COVID made travel difficult, and I realised I needed to return to Australia. Miraculously I was able to return in 2021. Also amazingly, an opportunity opened up for me in Australia to do very similar work to my UK venture, this time with Anglican Aid, supporting people suffering human rights abuses around the world.
You studied languages and history (in addition to your Masters in International Law) after leaving the Australian Government, leading to a career overseas. Was working overseas always something that interested you and when did that realisation come to you?
Good question! I had always loved travelling, and did so from when I was a young girl – my first plane trip was going to live in PNG when I was 5 years old!
From my early twenties, I also travelled to study and learn languages, as well as for the sheer pleasure of exploring other places. Then in 1993 while I was doing Bible studies in France, I started to make steps towards working as a lawyer in Paris. This dream did not eventuate, as there was unemployment even among French lawyers at the time.
However, the desire to work overseas did not leave me and as my career progressed it started to become a reality. First I worked in International Policy in the Defence Department, which gave me exposure to working with embassies and foreign Governments. Then in the Immigration Department, the possibility of international work again presented itself however, it was not to be realised in these workplaces. It was only when I started working in the not-for-profit sector that my dream of working overseas reached its full potential. The work with Middle East Concern was very satisfying, stimulating and rewarding, bringing together so many strands of my interests in life - travel, meeting people, speaking in different languages, law, exploring foreign countries, and helping people in need.
How did your time at the ANU College of Law shape you?
My time at the ANU College of Law shaped me by preparing me for the work that was to come. My research skills were honed (including bringing to the top of an essay the main point I wanted to make, learnt by loss of marks in an essay, so I won't forget that one).
The broad range of subjects in my Masters of International Law prepared me in detail for the content of the work I would be doing. In particular, the excellent subjects of Fundamentals of International Law & Refugee Law were brilliant (taught by the excellent Dr Jean-Pierre Fonteyne).
What advice would you give to current students on making the most of their law studies?
Keep plugging away. Your hard work will be rewarded. Above all, ask God for guidance. Things will go better!
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