By special request from the international members of our network, we have decided to do a series on lawyers from civil law jurisdictions who have chosen to study law in Melbourne so that they can be admitted to practice in a common law jurisdiction. This interview also aims to show that international students also come with their fair share of struggles. Today, the secretary sits down with Mr Aditya Tumakaka, whom you would have recognised from many of our events!
S: Aditya, thank you for agreeing to be interviewed for this post! Just for the members in our network, where are you from?
A: I’m from Jakarta, Indonesia.
S: That is a lovely place! Could you tell us what was your career before you enrolled in the JD?
A: I was a mid-associate in a top corporate law firm in Indonesia. I specialized in banking and finance and some minor commercial litigation for 4 years in Indonesia. During those years I also had the opportunity to be seconded to the Development Bank of Singapore (DBS) Bank’s Indonesia headquarters which oversees their entire operations in the region for one year, where I worked as one of their in-house counsel.
S: Why did you pick Australia as the country to come to study? Why did you pick Melbourne?
A: It took a long time for me to finally choose to enrol in the JD program at Melbourne Law School, as I was also considering taking LLM in America or the Netherlands instead. But my experience in handling cross-border loan transactions and litigations convinced me that the world is getting smaller and interconnected, so I think an additional qualification from a common law country would be a better investment.So why did I pick Australia and Melbourne in particular? Simple, the Australian government has been working to increase their trade volume with Asian countries and Indonesia, as one of the closest neighbour, is no exception. As such, my previous experience would add more value in my work as an Australian qualified lawyer in times when Australian businesses are becoming more integrated with the Asian region. Also with MLS as one of world’s top law schools, Melbourne is the city to go!
S: Wow, you've achieved a lot in your life in Indonesia and Singapore, yet you chose to come to Australia where you would have to start all over again! What difficulties did you face in this program? How did you overcome them?
A: As an international student coming from a non-English speaking country, my lack of fluency in the language can sometime be quite an obstacle to my learning. But luckily, I have a very supportive group of friends from law school. I am also grateful to staff members like Kate Van Hooft and Chantal Morton who have been very helpful throughout the years that I have been studying here. The other problem I have had to confront was the cost of living. As you know, the high exchange rate means that I have to juggle three jobs to support myself. I’m currently working as a research assistant to Professor Tim Linsey at the Center of Indonesia and Islamic Law at MLS, a legal advisor for a growing Indonesian tech start-up company, and I’m doing some manual labour work at a retail shop in Victoria Market.
S: Aditya, I salute you for being able to overcome these difficulties. I'm sure there are positive moments from your time in Melbourne. Could you tell our readers what careers stuff and activities have you done so far?
A: Having spent four years as a corporate lawyer, I was exposed to many different kinds of transactions from M&As in various business sectors, derivative transactions, foreign direct investment, syndicated loan transactions that involves multiple banks from different jurisdictions, debt restructuring, and even Islamic banking!
In 2014, I was one of the delegates at the Conference of Australia Indonesia Youth that gathers young executives from both government and private sectors with similar interest in building AUS-IND bilateral relations. In that same year, I also represented MLS as part of “Team Australia” in Intercollegiate Negotiation Competition, a unique competition of arbitration and negotiation in Japan which supported by Japan Commercial Arbitration Association, where our team was placed third!
But I had a different experience last summer break. I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to do intern/pro bono work at the Wahid Institute, a foundation that was established by the fourth president of Indonesia, that focus on issues very close to my heart such as religious freedom, minority rights, and studies on radical groups. We did advocacy for minority rights, peace building in several area that is part of the radical group’s hot spots, and at the same time empowering the housewife in that area by providing education in household expenses management and human rights issue. I was also appointed as one of the field researcher for the Indonesian Commission of Human Rights to conduct research on protection of right of religious freedom by government in West Java where I had the opportunity to interact with the local decision maker and members of minority groups who’s been subjected to many discriminatory actions.
On top of my current part-time jobs, I also volunteer as one of the editors at the legal and politics section of AKTIVIS Magazine.
S: Aditya, many thanks for telling us your story. I think this story has helped our readers to recognise the difficulties which our international students face coming into a new jurisdiction where English isn't their native language, and and appreciate that international students also struggle with the high tuition fees and living expenses the same way any Australian student would. You have also shown us that although you are have always been practising in commercial law; you always have a soft spot for human rights.