Daye Gang is a junior barrister at the Victorian Bar having received multiple awards including the International Bar Association Outstanding Young Lawyer Award and the Barristers award in the Lawyers’ Weekly 30 Under 30 Awards. As someone who is very passionate about human rights, Daye is currently a PhD candidate on restorative justice for gendered violence, works with a South Korean NGO to advocate for accountability on North Korean international crimes, and translates North Korean laws into English to promote accessibility. Today, she reflects on her career and the many ways she has been able to make an impact.
In 2020, you received the International Bar Association Outstanding Young Lawyer Award and the Barristers award in the Lawyers’ Weekly 30 Under 30 Awards. Congratulations on these impressive achievements! What made you decide to go into law in the first place?
I got the grades for it and my blessed grandmother got the idea that shy little me would be a good fit for it. I don’t know what she was thinking, but I know she was right. In retrospect it all makes sense: given the community conversations we are having now about equality of opportunity, anti-racism, and combating workplace harassment, I’m proud that I persisted with my grandmother’s vision so I can now help others. Having the platform I do now, I get asked for opinions not just on my areas of expertise but also on the value of being a woman of colour who is able to forge her own path. I was only able to make my difference my strength with the support of other brilliant headstrong women, so it’s important to help others to do the same.
You do extensive work outside of your job as a barrister, including your work with the Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights and your PhD with Monash University’s Michael Kirby Centre for Public Health and Human Rights. What sparked your passion for this range of work?
I’ve always been interested in helping people. These roles came about because other women who were interested in helping people thought they could train me to be one of them. Volunteering, pro bono work, and other forms of service to the community are more important in times when government is unwilling or unable to act, so I’m glad I found these roles that also happen to fit my pretty nerdy personality and allow me to connect to my culture. It’s also become much clearer that the skills I learn in each role help me to bring a unique interdisciplinary perspective which is valuable in its own right. The next question is work-life balance, which I haven’t quite figured out yet!
Education and human rights are clearly matters that you are passionate about. You even started your own website, “Law and North Korea,” where you go over DPRK laws in English. How did you come up with the idea, and why is it so important for these translations to be accessible?
Other people binged Netflix during the first lockdown in Melbourne. I should have done that too. Instead, I thought about writing a blog. I definitely should have stuck to Netflix at this point, but I found myself researching possible blog topics on North Korean law to write about and found that there was a lot of Korean language analysis, but not a lot of that law available in English (unlike South Korean legislation). The anglophone world has a lot of expertise that is, in some places, siloed by a language barrier. It dawned on me that it would be a rare combination of legal qualifications, solid Korean and English skills, passable understanding of North Korea, and free time that would put me in a unique place to make this contribution. Given that there is so much casual Yellow Peril racism caught up in discussions about North Korea and its future, I decided to make an impartial resource that anglophone scholars, journalists, and students can use so they can see what the state of the law is for themselves. It is a project intended to assist everyone to better understand North Korea so criticism can be founded in evidence rather than easy and reductive stereotypes about rocket men.
Your PhD is about restorative justice for victims of sexual and family violence. What changes do you wish to see made to increase visibility to these issues?
Starting with yes. Too often when we talk about sexual and family violence we rely on what the law allows police, lawyers, and Courts to do. We say “you could, but upon consideration, you shouldn’t. There are too many risks.” It’s also a fallacy to think that the law protects everyone: it is conspicuously absent in many migrant communities and communities of colour; it is a tool of state-sanctioned violence and extension of the colonial state in others, not to mention Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. From my PhD research, it is clear that legislatures have the best and most creative intentions, and attitudes on the street to violence against women are now more likely to encompass the reality of women’s experiences. However, reporting and convictions have not increased commensurately across the community. What’s more, policy and legislative decisions made about women are largely led by white women who are citizens and don’t understand the existential anxiety that a temporary visa inflicts, or the visceral horror that a man in uniform can retrigger. We need to start with the assumption that the community has a role in seeking justice and accountability as led by the wishes of the victim or victims of sexual and family violence. The law will do its part, but it is not enough.
What would be your piece of advice for young women looking to follow in your footsteps?
Why follow in my footsteps! Choose a direction that lights your own fire! Allow yourself to be challenged by ideas that contradict your worldview and make you uncomfortable. The really interesting opportunities will find you there.
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