Doctor’s error drives law student to fight injustice in her sister’s honour

Christina Lee

It’s inevitable that I can’t look after my sister ever again, but now I can devote the rest of my life to be a voice of the voiceless and bring hope to the hopeless.

Law students are often driven by a desire to make a difference in an unjust world. That has been the case for 2017 Phillipa Weeks Scholar Christina Lee, but that desire comes from knowing personally what it means to experience injustice.

Christina’s older sister was nine months old when a doctor’s error turned a minor surgery in to a life changing tragedy. Her sister suffered severe brain damage that left her quadriplegic, unable to speak, eat or communicate.

“She survived longer than the hospital predicted because of my parents’ dedication and unconditional love for their daughter,” Christina said in a 2016 International Women’s Day speech.

“And she still lives on in our memories, in our conversations and now in my passion.”

She died when she was eight. The family moved from South Korea to Australia when Christina was 12 but not before they endured a years-long medical and legal battle. Their anguish left Christina angry for a very long time but as she grew up and learned more about the world’s injustices, that anger turned to inspiration.

“My sister never got to dream, never got her own family and never got to receive education. And there is absolutely nothing I can do about that,” Christina said.

“It’s inevitable that I can’t look after my sister ever again, but now I can devote the rest of my life to be a voice of the voiceless and bring hope to the hopeless.

“My dream now is to become an international human rights lawyer and the topic I’m most passionate about is abolishing human trafficking.”

In 2015 her interest in human rights grew when she took part in the United Nations Youth Aotearoa Leadership Tour around New Zealand, and her interest in fighting modern day slavery and human trafficking was cemented when she spent three weeks volunteering in Nepal with Friends of Himalayan Children Inc.

“I met a porter who was only 16, the same age as my brother. Her mum had been trafficked and her dad was a human trafficker so she was orphaned,” she said.

“Before I met her I’d only read articles about the problem. It was really confronting but meeting her confirmed for me that law was the right path.”

Each year the ANU College of Law awards the Phillipa Weeks Scholarship to one first-year LLB (Hons) student who has undertaken (at least) the final two years of their secondary schooling in a regional or remote area of Australia.

Updated:  10 August 2015/Responsible Officer:  College General Manager, ANU College of Law/Page Contact:  Law Marketing Team