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Michelle Neil, National Memberships Officer

Michelle is a recently graduated and newly admitted lawyer with experience working in property, commercial and estate planning law.

Law is Michelle’s second career after working nearly 20 years in the veterinary and wildlife industry. Michelle has worked as a vet nurse, wildlife rescuer and rehabilitator, and research volunteer at such organisations as the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary Hospital and the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital.

It is Michelle’s passion for wildlife and the environment that led her down the legal path, and ultimately joining the team at NELA.

Michelle’s long-term goal is to be more actively involved in environmental and animal law reform in both Queensland and Australia.

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Grace Huang, National Partnerships Officer

Grace is a solicitor practicing in the Environment, Planning, and Communities team at Herbert Smith Freehills in Sydney, where she advises public and private sector clients in relation to a variety of environmental and planning law issues including judicial review, civil enforcement, land acquisition, and contaminated land management matters.

Grace has also worked extensively with a range of organisations including the Australian Law Reform Commission, the Environmental Defenders Office, and the Public Interest Advocacy Centre.

She is passionate about cross-sector collaboration, nurturing community amongst like-minded environmental law professionals, and developing robust debate around the reform of environmental law.

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Sophia Xian, National Events Officer

Sophia is a newly admitted lawyer with an interest in administrative law and environmental law. She is currently pursuing those interests as an Associate at the Land Court of Queensland and at QCAT.

Sophia volunteered for several organisations including NELA and the EDO throughout her time at university, conducting legal research for a parliamentary inquiry submission and producing a policy paper relating to cultural heritage protection legislation. As a student, she benefitted greatly from the events and mentoring programs run by organisations such as NELA.

As the Events Officer, Sophia aims to create more learning opportunities for students and recent graduates. She also hopes to foster a cross-disciplinary approach to discussions about environmental law.

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Nabeela Raji, National Education Officer

Nabeela Raji is a recently admitted Australian lawyer, currently providing legal research and consultancy services in the areas of energy, climate change and environmental law and policy. Nabeela has also worked across a broad range of advocacy and law reform initiatives in the areas of human rights, transitional justice and constitutional reform as a lawyer in Sri Lanka.

Nabeela’s childhood exploring the wildlife sanctuaries of Sri Lanka on photography expeditions and love for hiking and spending time outdoors in nature led to a keen interest in the role of law in protecting the environment.
Nabeela’s passion, combined with growing momentum on the urgency of combating climate change in Australia, has influenced the direction of her career to date and motivated her to join NELA as an appointed officer. Nabeela hopes to contribute her legal experience and interest in environmental law towards advocacy and finding solutions in the climate change space in Australia and overseas.
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Xavier Tan-Smith, National Secretariat Officer

Xavier is currently studying full time in his second year completing a bachelor of commerce majoring in business law and finance.
He plans to pursue a career in law with a direct entry into the postgraduate Juris Doctor degree at the University of Western Australia.
Xavier is currently working part time in strata management and runs a small tutoring business.

Patrick Cenita, National Publications Officer

Patrick is a student at the Queensland University of Technology and works as a legal secretary for planning and environmental law barristers. He is interested in practicing within these areas of law at the completion of his studies.

Patrick is passionate about interdisciplinary projects and enjoys making use of a former career in creative production and project management. In his spare time, he enjoys framing art using recycled timber and is currently learning how to swim.

Patrick started volunteering at NELA in 2022 and is thrilled to be contributing as part of the Publications Portfolio.