Rural, Regional, Remote Law — Rewarding legal careers in rural, regional and remote Australia

Tom Allen

Tom Allen is a legal aid solicitor in the Top End town of Broome in Western Australia. Tom originally grew up near the NSW country town of Cowra and knows the country lifestyle well. A graduate of the Australian National University’s (ANU) law school, Tom moved to Broome as part of the Western Australian Government’s Country Lawyers Program.

Why do you enjoy working in country Australia and in particular Broome?

It’s a balance of a couple of things: lifestyle and work opportunities. I have a young family and Broome is a great place for them. There’s also the clean air, being surrounded by such a unique environment, and the proximity to things like beaches and camping.

There’s plenty of variety in the work I do and the opportunities the legal profession offers you in country Australia are hard to replicate in many of the metropolitan firms.

What work opportunities has working in Broome offered you? How has it helped you in developing and furthering your career?

Legal aid sees any clients for any matter. We get to take on a range of legal matters including criminal law, both in the adult and children’s courts; criminal compensation; traffic and licensing issues; and we also do family law and child welfare law.

Working in Broome has helped accelerate my future prospects for other jobs. But also my skills, competencies and confidence are certainly ahead of where I feel I would have been had I not had this exposure.

How have your experiences in Broome differed from those of larger cities from a work and lifestyle perspective?

Working in a country town as opposed to a larger city, your client interaction is vastly different: you come to know the people very well and have a greater understanding about what’s going on in their lives. This makes an amazing difference in your ability to represent your clients and their interests.

From a lifestyle perspective, the hours are really good; you live close to your home; there’s a great deal of flexibility; and you’re not stuck in a sort of rat-race trying to get home every day.

From a lifestyle or work perspective, if you had to choose one favourite aspect of living in Broome what would it be?

The challenge and the expectation that no matter what sort of issue comes across your desk, you’re obliged to provide some advice‚ I think that really pushes you along and puts you in a situation where you develop at a rate you wouldn’t otherwise.

You joined legal aid in Broome through the Country Lawyers Program. What was it about this program that attracted you to take up work in Broome?

Legal aid in Broome offered good job security: the security of tenure and the employment conditions I was offered were very attractive.

Practising in the bush was the number one consideration for me though. I didn’t really mind where I went and when Broome was offered I was more than happy to give it a go.

Broome is a place that is quite stimulating: there are a lot of people from a lot of different backgrounds. At university I studied Indigenous Affairs and a lot of the interaction between cultures here in Broome is extremely positive‚ it’s a stimulating and rewarding part of being here.

As someone with a young family who is working in Broome, if you were approached by colleagues at a similar stage of life who were considering a switch to a RRR area of Australia, what would you advise them?

I think working in RRR areas of Australia suits a certain type of person with a certain set of expectations. People with a broad mind of what they might come up against and clients they may see are really well suited to locations like Broome.

Also, I think Broome offers a great environment for families. There are so many cultural pressures associated with living in a big city, how people work and raise their families, which are non-existent here. There certainly aren’t as many of those pressures here and it’s a great weight off the shoulders not to have them.

There’s plenty of variety in the work I do and the opportunities the legal profession offers you in country Australia are hard to replicate in many of the metropolitan firms.
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