PEOPLE: The community lawyer championing diversity from the front

Can you tell our readers what a normal day looks like for Tu Le? 

I have ‘Me Time’ scheduled in my calendar every morning. My mornings include meditation, stretching, giving my dog Cleo lots of cuddles, reading, walking Cleo, and having a cup of coffee with my partner while we read from ‘The Daily Stoic’ – not always in the same order. Having a consistent routine, particularly in the morning, is important to me and helps me stay energised throughout the day. I try to work between 9-5 as much as possible, as I usually have after-hour meetings and events on during the week. With the easing of restrictions, I’m back to team sports, social gatherings, and face-to-face meetings. Wednesday and Sunday evenings are my basketball game nights. I have weekly scheduled meetings for a few of the organisations and projects I am currently working on. My Sunday mornings are dedicated to the Vietnamese Buddhist Youth Association where I teach dharma classes to young Buddhists. I catch up with my family and friends around these commitments.

How important is diversity to you and in the work that you do?

I work in the community legal sector assisting people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities who are disadvantaged by our legal system, so diversity and inclusion is critical to the work that I do. I am constantly striving to break down the barriers that make it difficult for people to access legal help. This means ensuring our services are targeted, culturally-appropriate and being approachable as well as accessible. A lot of people, particularly newly arrived migrants or refugees don’t even know community legal centres exist. Some people don’t seek help from a lawyer as they think it is too expensive, or they think they don’t need legal advice for their matter, but it’s important that people understand their rights and legal options. No one should be disadvantaged because they can’t afford a lawyer, don’t speak English or aren’t aware of their rights.

Have you ever faced challenges in your professional career from others because of your identity and if so, how were you able to overcome that?

I have faced my share of challenges in my professional career as a young woman of colour. Unfortunately, it is not an uncommon experience to be confronted by prejudice and discrimination, often because of people’s biases or assumptions about you because of who you are or where you live. I have always been opened to learning and making mistakes. You should never be afraid to ask for help – I asked a lot of questions when I first started my career, and still do! Over the years, I also gained the confidence to challenge the status quo. Just because things have always been done a certain way, doesn’t mean that should continue. People with different lived experiences contribute unique perspectives and ideas. It can be refreshing and spark the type of out-of-the-box thinking needed for creativity and innovation across any industry. I feel fortunate that throughout my career, I have been able to demonstrate my competence and capabilities with outcomes. Actions speak louder than words. Talk is cheap and not everyone is afforded the opportunity to be heard. It’s important to show your worth, and in my personal experience, sometimes this means working twice as hard just to be seen. Also, I only recently embraced my identity as a Vietnamese-Australian woman as an advantage rather than an impediment that stops me from smashing the proverbial ceilings foisted on me.

ADVICE FOR THE YOUTH

Don’t be afraid to embrace your identity as a hyphenated Australia. Australia is becoming an increasingly diverse society and what it means to be Australian is ever-evolving. Your cultural heritage is an asset to this country. In 2021 and beyond, we should be moving from mere tolerance to cultivating our cultural diversity as central to our national identity. Young people are pivotal to that shift.

Want to follow and support TU LE?

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nguyentule/
Instagram: @therealtule
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TuLe_2166
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TuLe2166/


About the diversity champion:

Tu is a lawyer, community worker, advocate, and organiser who grew up in South-West Sydney. She works in the community legal sector as a community development manager and solicitor assisting CALD communities, particularly male perpetrators and victim-survivors of domestic and family violence. She is also the co-founder of YCollab and a Youth Leader at the Vietnamese Buddhist Youth Association. Tu is a second-generation Australian-born woman with Vietnamese heritage, with her family coming to Australia as refugees after the Vietnam war. She lives to serve her local community and improve the lives of others; to make our society fairer and more equitable, especially for the most vulnerable members in her community. As a beneficiary of the public education system, Tu understands the life-changing significance of a good education and decent employment opportunities can have on individuals and their families.

Image description: Tu Le is looking at the camera while sitting on a bench, wearing a red jumper