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Legally Blonde with a difference

When Maria Mansour graduated with a Bachelor of Laws with First Class Honours from the University of Notre Dame, she wanted to use her expertise to make a positive difference in society.

“So many wonderful people believed in me and helped me reach my academic potential and I wanted to pay it forward,” Maria said.

After spending five years at a large law firm in the Perth CBD, doing taxation of costs, leases contracts and judgement enforcements, Maria decided to move away from commercial law and use her skills in the public sector.

“A high percentage of law graduates don’t stay in the profession for a number of reasons.  I left because I wanted more human contact and to feel like I was making more of a direct impact on peoples’ lives,” Maria said.

“I was also pretty burnt out because I spent the first few years trying to over-compensate for my disability.  For example, I never admitted that I needed support, such as getting transport to and from court or client meetings.”

Maria’s next career move was a two-year contract with the Disability Services Commission. The Commission was looking for someone with legal skills to help develop legislation and policies for the new Bennett Brook Disability Justice Centre.

“I loved working at the Commission but after the contract ended I had periods of unemployment and found it hard to get more work in the public service,” she said.

Eventually Maria got another contract with the Commission and is currently working as a Senior Policy and Program Officer.

“I recently applied for a permanent position and will find out very soon if I was successful.  I would love to stay at the Commission because it fulfils my desire to make a positive difference,” she said.

“In recent years the State Government has been attempting to increase employment opportunities for people with disability. This is a positive step forward, however during the times I was unemployed I found that we still have a long way to go.

“Recruitment processes need to offer more flexible employment options and ongoing commitment to people with disability.

“People with disability can be committed to the workplace if the workplace is equally committed to us.”

Commission Director General Dr Ron Chalmers said Maria’s skills and experience in the legal field had been invaluable, especially her work related to establishing the Bennett Brook Disability Justice Centre.

“I am personally grateful for the huge contribution Maria made to the development of the legislation and policies for the justice centre.

“This project was ground-breaking, Australia-wide, and it was critical we got everything right – Maria played a vital role in achieving that.”