Justin Abi-Daher is the youngest son of immigrants who left Lebanon after the civil war in the early 1980s. As one of Marrickville Legal Centre’s state-wide strata solicitors, he has used his fluent Arabic to help clients.
When I was a tenant advocate at Western Sydney Legal Centre, I came across a client who was bullied by a real estate agent. The client suffered from schizophrenia and panic attacks. When I walked into conciliation, the agent went straight for this client, without remorse. Those tenants, if they lose the tenancy, they have nowhere to go: there’s a waiting list for social housing. They fall into that black hole. The way the real estate agent represented the client was completely different to how the tenant was. We won that case: she’s still in that property and it’s been nearly two years.
How did you become interested in the community legal sector?
My interest in social justice comes from growing up in western Sydney. I am the only one in my family born here and the only one to get a tertiary education. I wanted to help my own community.
Besides working in the community legal sector, what other roles have you taken on?
I worked as a digital media intern at News Corporation. I worked for GQ online: writing articles, doing all the online updates and galleries for six months. I also worked at the ABC as a legal intern. Fashion and media have always been an interest, that I like to keep running on the side. I think if I let that go, I would probably get burnt out.
What are you reading or watching at the moment?
It’s a bit nerdy, but I am re-watching all the Harry Potters: I’m up to series eight. I loved it growing up. I tend to read more magazines now: Kinfolk and Smith Journal. I’m more into that than reading books, mostly because I do so much reading and writing here at work. So in my spare time, I’m more into visuals and photography: something other than writing. I’m about to go on holiday to Slovenia and my camera and tripod will be with me the whole time: in the mountains and near the lake with the castle in the middle.
What are people surprised to learn about you?
People are surprised that I listen to a lot of heavy rock music, like scream-o stuff. I also listen to a lot of alternative music now. Some of the heavy stuff I’ve listened to is Alexisonfire and Underoath.
Is there anything quirky that you'd be happy to share?
My favourite animal is a cow, I’ve always had an obsession with them. I take hundreds of photos of them, I have a cow pen that moves. I’m going to Byron Bay soon for the festival Splendour in the Grass and the whole road is just lined with cows: we’ll be stopping hundreds of times to take pictures. Sometime I try to be in the photo with them, but often they run away which is a bit sad. They’re quite peaceful. I don’t discriminate on colour, but the classic black and white ones are beautiful. I’m not veg, I have been, but not at the moment: sorry, cows! I always threaten to give up beef: it’s an existential crisis, let’s not get into it!