A visible Asian face in Australian leadership

Elizabeth Lee LLB ’03, B Asian Studies ’03 reflects on the responsibilities of her role as lawyer-turned-politician.

As an 18-year-old female raised in a Korean household in Sydney, moving out of home before getting a full-time job was probably not something my parents had even contemplated when I announced I wanted to move to Canberra to study law at ANU.

It was 1998. I had a Nokia 5110 mobile phone. There were sections of road where it was one-lane between Sydney and Canberra. Rent at Fenner Hall was $82 per week and I could get $2 basic spirits at Mooseheads (wait – they still do that don’t they?)

My intention was to study law and head back up to Sydney when I became a lawyer. But, as many temporary visitors to our great city would have experienced, Canberra has a way of growing on you and I have now called it home for almost 20 years.

University life was a transformative time for me and I joke that I enjoyed my time at ANU so much that I came back – first to study my LLM and then as a lecturer with the ANU Legal Workshop.

I never thought about politics as my future when I was at ANU. I was not heavily engaged with student activities except to join the Law Students’ Society and serve on the executive of the Korean Students’ Society. I was never interested in student politics (all that campaigning and yelling through megaphones at Union Court was all a bit foreign and off-putting to me).It wasn’t until I had the opportunity to serve the legal profession as Chair of the ACT Young Lawyers, then the Australian Young Lawyers, and then as Councillor and Vice-President of the ACT Law Society, that it occurred to me the reason I found myself putting my hand up for these roles was to be able to advocate for and represent people who may not be in a position to do it for themselves.