TRLS addresses an access-to-justice gap that manifests from the unique circumstances of refugees, asylum seekers & other humanitarian entrants into the Tasmanian community.

Tasmanian Refugee Legal Service

About Us

Learn more about our mission, values and team.

Who We Are

The Tasmanian Refugee Legal Service (TRLS) is a not-for-profit organisation established to provide migration-related legal services to refugees, migrants, asylum seekers and other humanitarian entrants in the Tasmanian community.

It is the only dedicated refugee, migrant, asylum seeker and humanitarian entrant legal service in Tasmania and has been operating since 2013. Due to their circumstances, these clients may otherwise be unable to access legal assistance that is free, or available in Tasmania.

TRLS addresses an access-to-justice gap that manifests from the unique circumstances of this cohort. TRLS’ legal services significantly improves the operation of the justice system for persons residing in Tasmania who would otherwise be without access to legal services.

Annual Reports

More more information, please click below to download and read our most recent annual reports.

This is Our Mission

TRLS aims to provide free legal services to people of refugee background, humanitarian entrants and people seeking asylum experiencing disadvantage in Tasmania, through harnessing the expertise of lawyers, law students, and volunteers to provide access to justice to some of the most disadvantaged community members in Tasmania.

These are Our Values


We are driven to support those who need it in our community. We value kindness and understanding.


We work to support and empower our diverse Tasmanian community. We are agile, innovative, and collaborative in our approach to service delivery to ensure we meet the needs of our community.


We listen to, appreciate, and recognise others.


We work for equitable access to justice to ensure that the human rights of people of refugee background are upheld.


We are culturally responsive and deliver unbiased services to clients of differing ethnic backgrounds, gender identities, religions, sexual orientations, ages, races, and abilities. We believe that diversity strengthens our community and strive to reflect diversity within our organisation.


We value honesty, transparency, professionalism, and confidentiality. We are accountable.

Our Purpose

TRLS’s work involves the provision of free key legal assistance and representation to people who could not otherwise obtain it due to financial and other forms of distinct disadvantage, often related to their cultural or linguistically diverse backgrounds or experiences of torture or trauma.

We provide our clients with protection from persecution, a pathway to permanency, safety from family violence and a pathway to reuniting with family, these are our core aims. We provide expert legal advice and assistance to people who need a safe place where they can rebuild their lives with dignity and care and with a sense of belonging.

We have helped many of our clients rebuild their lives in safety and we have done that by providing them with a legal pathway to stay and to come to Australia, and we have used a human rights framework to do this.

TRLS is the only dedicated refugee, migrant, asylum seeker and humanitarian entrant legal service in Tasmania. TRLS addresses an access-to-justice gap that manifests from the unique circumstances of this cohort. TRLS’ legal services significantly improves the operation of the justice system for persons resident in Tasmania who would otherwise be without access to legal services.

Our People

All our staff continue to show incredible passion and commitment to our aims and are all providing vital legal assistance to some of the most disadvantaged community members in Tasmania.


Patrick O’Connor

Principal Lawyer & CEO


Taya Ketelaar Jones

Senior Lawyer


Daisy Kateros



Melody Tan



Kawindi Batuwitaarachchige



Jarin White



Quan Nguyen

Operations Manager

Our Board & Governance

As a not-for-profit organisation TRLS is governed by a board of volunteers who provide independent advice and guidance for the direction of our organisation.

Cleo Hansen-Lohrey

Cleo Hansen-Lohrey is a Lecturer and doctoral candidate in the Faculty of Law at the University of Tasmania, where she teaches administrative law and civil procedure. Cleo’s research focuses on international refugee and human rights law, and displacement in the context of climate change.

Before joining the Faculty of Law, Cleo worked for a number of years in the legal, not-for-profit and government sectors. Her previous roles include: Senior Legal Officer for the former Department of Immigration and Border Protection, working in the areas of civil and administration litigation and refugee law; and Humanitarian Observer for the Australian Red Cross’s Immigration Detention Program, leading humanitarian monitoring visits to Australia’s mainland and Christmas Island immigration detention facilities. Cleo has been engaged in protection-based advocacy for asylum seekers, refugees and immigration detainees at the local and national levels in Australia

Kate Buxton

A graduate of the London School of Economics, Kate worked at a senior level in the UK independent film/tv production before migrating to Australia in 1997.

She has extensive leadership experience in the for-purpose sector and has worked with a range of community and mental health organisations, philanthropic and community foundations, peak bodies, and government. Her expertise includes outcomes frameworks, organisational and program evaluation, strategic and organisational development, governance, communication and engagement. Kate founded Shift The Needle in 2019 to support for-purpose organisations, especially rural and regional community organisations, to be sustainable, meet challenges and seize opportunities. She is a member of the Australian Institute of Community Directors Australia and the International Association of Public Participation (IAP2). She is a specialist consultant and founding member of The XFactor Collective, Australia’s largest and most diverse social impact practitioner community.

Millie Von Stieglitz

Millie is a lawyer, who is employed as a Parliamentary and Policy Adviser to Andrew Wilkie MP, the Independent Member for Clark in the Federal Parliament.

She specialises in policy development, campaigning, stakeholder management and community engagement. Millie is currently completing her Masters of Public and International Law, with her studies focussing on human rights law and government integrity. Millie has served on the Board since 2017.

Mae Tanner

Mae is a lawyer who works at national community legal centre Justice Connect as Manager of a social enterprise providing legal services to not-for-profits. Her areas of interest include governance, volunteer law and privacy.

Mae has a Masters in Human Rights and a demonstrated passion for social justice and equality internationally. She spent two years working with lawyers and human rights defenders across Myanmar to establish the country’s first independent association of lawyers. Prior to that she worked with civil society in Samoa to address human rights concerns, and with the Samoa Law Reform Commission to advise on improvements to national law and policy. Mae has a particular interest in refugee rights and has previously volunteered for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre’s Human Rights Program in Melbourne, assisting asylum seekers with applications for refugee status. She has previously served as volunteer director on the board of the Australian based Indonesia aid charity Nusatenggara Association

Mark Huber

Mark Huber joined the TRLS Board in 2019. He currently serves as Vice-Chair. Mark specialises in strategic policy development, project management and law.

He is a qualified legal practitioner with experience spanning Australia, Asia, and Europe. Based in Tasmania since 2018, Mark currently project manages the state’s implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture. With a passion for justice and reform, Mark believes that societies prosper when social resources prioritise collaboration, and reducing barriers to participation. His previous work has involved policy and legislative development, leading complex investigations and reviews, technical assistance and capacity building to developing countries, and academia.

Samantha Climie

Samantha joined the Board as the University of Tasmania (UTAS) Representative in 2020.

Alongside her undergraduate studies of law and international relations, Samantha volunteered with several environmental and refugee charities, worked as a bushwalking guide, and led voyages to Antarctica for the Australian Antarctic Program. She graduated from UTAS in 2022 and is currently studying an MSc in Environmental Change and Management at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar.

Samuel Karpinskyj

Samuel has served on the Board since 2016 and has served as Chair since 2020.

He is an Assistant Director in the Competition Division of the ACCC. Sam has overseen significant developments in the service in his time as Chair, which has resulted in the service being able to significantly expand its reach into the community.

Kath Skinner

Kath is an experienced health professional, executive health and social services manager, and non executive board director who has a deep understanding of the role that organisational culture plays in executing strategy.

She has a Certificate in Executive Management and Development, Master of Health Science (clinical data management), Master of Clinical Nursing, and is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. Alongside her various executive roles Kath served on the Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District Board for five years (2017-2021), appointed by the NSW Minister for Health.

On a personal level, Kath describes herself a life-long learner. She is passionate about equality and advocating for the rights of vulnerable people which led to her establishing her business Integrity Health Services, trading as My Healthcare Advocate. Kath moved to Tasmania in mid 2023 to accept the CEO role with The Hobart Clinic, a not for profit mental healthcare service. Kath’s interests outside of work include growing tulips and mountain bike riding.

Dr Israel Fianyi

Dr. Israel Fianyi is a Lecturer in the School of Information & Communication Technology, situated at the Launceston Campus. His primary research interests encompass a cutting-edge fields, including Artificial Intelligence, Natural Language Processing, Cybersecurity, Machine Learning, Deep Learning, and Data Science.

Israel’s academic journey includes an impressive academic background, holding a PhD in Information Technology from UTAS, a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Gloucestershire (UK), and Masters in Management Information Systems, along with a Bachelor’s degree in Information Studies from the University of Ghana. This diverse educational foundation equips him with a multidisciplinary perspective that greatly benefits his work.

Throughout his career, Israel has taken on pivotal roles in both tech companies and universities, demonstrating a remarkable ability to leverage technology to enhance efficiency and foster innovation.

Manuel Barragan

Manuel is the CEO of Artibus Innovation, a certified for-benefit (B Corp) workforce development consultancy, which focusses on projects that positively contribute to education and training, economic growth, sustainable cities and communities across Australia.

He possesses strong leadership acumen and has proven experience defining and articulating sustainable growth strategies, planning and implementing innovative initiatives and connecting with stakeholders and corporate partners to design solutions.

Manuel also has extensive experience and expertise in occupational regulatory reform, policy development and application and governance. He brings sound problem-solving capabilities paired with in-depth knowledge on governance and strategy which enable him to focus on building capacity and capability across the organisation and to visualise and capitalise on future developments for both industry and the community. His qualifications include a Bachelor of Justice Studies (San Jose State University, California, USA) and a Master of Human Rights, with Honorary Mention (Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico City, Mexico).