5 minutes with… Marina Brizar

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Marina Brizar, migration lawyer tells Australasian Lawyer why she’d have Beyonce to dinner if she could.

What made you decide to become a lawyer?
My parents tell me that they were convinced they had a future lawyer on their hands very early on in the piece. My parents allege, that at the ripe age of 12 I would “argue, and continue arguing… but win”. When I started high school, I discovered my interest in history, languages, social sciences and humanities. As predicted by my parents, I also became interested in debate and advocacy. I was fortunate to be admitted into a Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of Arts in International Studies at UTS. Essentially, my journey to becoming a lawyer was organic and progressive.

How long have you worked at Playfair Visa and Migration Services, and what brought you to this position?
I have worked at Playfair Visa and Migration Services on a permanent basis since January 2015.  Prior to this, I contracted with Playfair Visa and Migration Services as a Claims Assistance Provider at the Regional Processing Centre in Manus Island.  I met the Practice Manager and some of the team at the Law Council of Australia Migration Law Conference in 2014. Given my background in providing corporate immigration assistance with Katie Malyon & Associates, and EY as well as my experience with advising asylum seekers, I was offered a fantastic opportunity to lead the corporate services team and also to travel to Manus Island to provide assistance to asylum seekers.  This role has amalgamated my strengths as a practitioner and my passion as an advocate.

What’s the strangest case you’ve ever worked on/been involved with?
I assisted a client who was an unlawful non-citizen, given a direction from the immigration department to make arrangements to depart Australia within a week.  It turned out that this person was highly skilled, but was the victim of fraud and unconscionable conduct.  Our work involved regularising the client’s immigration status to be able to live, work and contribute to our community was always intended.

If you could invite three people for dinner, dead or alive and excluding family and friends, who would they be and why?
Beyoncé Knowles – I am a huge Beyoncé fan.  Not only do I love her music, her performances and those costumes (!!), but I admire her campaigning in relation to strength of women, and her entrepreneurship.
Oskar Schindler – Having travelled to Poland to visit Auschwitz, Birkenau and the Schindler Factory, it would be an honour to meet the man who transformed from an opportunistic, profit-driven industrialist to a someone who demonstrated extraordinary initiative, compassion, tenacity and dedication in order to save the lives of those facing persecution.
Ernst Hemingway – author, journalist and a true transnationalist, Ernest Hemingway would lead a fascinating conversation!  I lived in Pamplona, Spain (home of the Running of the Bulls Festival), and studied the influence of Ernest Hemingway on the Festival, from a Spanish perspective.  It would be fascinating to have insight into what he intended to achieve through his work, and to evaluate whether his objectives were realised, or even surpassed.

You’re based in Sydney – where’s the best place to go for a drink and/or dinner after work?
I enjoy going to the Wine Bar at GPO – they have fabulous cheese and wine pairings, as well as a delectable spiced chocolate fondue!

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given (work or personal)?
Opportunities are like gelato – sweet and appealing – but if you don’t act fast, will melt away.

Do you have any hobbies/interests outside of work?
Victor Hugo is quoted as saying “Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent” – I believe this wholeheartedly and for this reason music is my interest.  I play the piano, attend concerts and dance Samba outside of work.

Complete this sentence: If I wasn’t a lawyer, I would be…
A historian (or samba dancer).

What do you think will be single biggest issue facing the litigation space in Australia in 2015?
Procedural fairness in administrative decision-making and, in particular, jurisdictional error arising from the exercise of discretion will most likely be the biggest trending issues in the field of immigration litigation.  More generally and contemporaneously, I predict that, if passed, the “metadata” legislation will be highly litigated, if the UK experience is anything to go by.

If you had Tony Abbott’s job for one day, what would you do?
Restoring Australia’s place as a global citizen would be my priority; albeit difficult to achieve in one day.  This would involve balancing our adherence to the principles of international law and associated humanitarian causes, with maintaining our national sovereignty.  In the context of globalisation, it is of utmost importance to capitalise on international relations and human movement – from engaging in sustainable international business practices, to benefiting from trade relationships and, most importantly in my line of work, facilitating economic migration and offering protection to those fleeing persecution. 

What do you love about your job?
I love the humanity of my work and the fact that clients trust me to be part of their migration pathway – which as a migrant myself; I understand can be frightening and challenging, yet rewarding.  One only has to look at the contributions of migrants to Australia in both developing our young nation (e.g. the Snowy Hydro Scheme) and in creating a diverse and multicultural society to realise why I love my job.
With a view to moving into diplomacy at a later stage of my career, I also love how much I have learned about migrant source countries, interactions with government and private stakeholders and most notably, the people I have met and have been privileged to work alongside.

What would you change about your job right now if you could?
An obvious change would be having structures and funding in place to assist with more pro-bono work.