“I care for these people like they are my own family” – Elika Chaparian on standing with refugees

Last Updated on 23/12/2020 by National Justice Project

For Elika Chaparian, the lived experience of seeking asylum allows her to truly understand the experiences of her clients, many of whom are people seeking protection and safety after having fled persecution in their homelands.

My mum fled to New Zealand from Iran when I was eight months old, knowing little to no English, with two children under the age of four on her back.

I place myself and my family’s situation in our clients’ and we were no different when we went to New Zealand.

She says that this comprehension of the enormous adversities that asylum seekers face was the real driving force in shaping her interest in social justice issues and pursuing her studies in law.

Elika joined The National Justice Project in early 2018 as a volunteer, and remembers feeling like she had found her calling:

My electives through law school were always very focused on human rights and social justice, as these types of subjects resonated with me the most. But I never thought I would end up pursuing a career in this sector.

When I started at NJP I thought it was incredible and knew this is exactly what I wanted to do.

Now working as a solicitor and the volunteer and stakeholder manager, Elika uses her personal experience and language skills to connect to her clients, most of which are Iranian refugees.

With a lot of the refugee and asylum seeker clients, I became a translator for most of the team. Not having that language barrier has been really helpful with sympathising and supporting the clients in the best way that I can.”

It is not just a normal client-lawyer relationship, I genuinely care for these people like they are my own family.”

It’s this unique connection with the clients that has made the National Justice Project “a place of growth” for Elika, allowing her to develop a deeper understanding of social justice issues in Australia through the lived experiences of her clients. For Elika, her work has provided her with “a platform to help seek justice for my people.”