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James Tran

James Tran is an emerging human rights lawyer, motivational speaker and missionary inspiring change in the world. Searching for his own identity throughout his childhood posed its own challenges but has ultimately made James determined to be a role model for future generations.

This is his story.

When I started Kindergarten, I did not know how to speak or understand English. I was raised very traditionally, so attending a primary school where I was a minority made me feel extremely lost in a very large, strange world.

I was bullied for being different. I had no friends and brought my own toys to school to play by myself. When I eventually picked up English, I realised I was being bullied for being different. In an attempt to fit in, I became a class clown. I turned out to be quite a good one, always making those around me laugh at the expense of myself getting into trouble.

The transition to high school saw me evolve from a class clown to a rebel and bully. I am not proud of the mistakes I made and the people I hurt during these years. In Year 11 I came to school over 35 days late and skipped over 7 weeks of school. I came close to last in almost all my subjects and almost got expelled after losing my temper in an argument with a teacher.

I found myself at a crossroads when my year coordinator had a talk with me and offered me two choices; to continue the way I was going or to take my final year of high school seriously. I chose the latter, realising that I had potential to be a much better person. I committed to achieving my personal best and set my eyes on studying law at university.

When I graduated high school, I came top 10 in all my HSC subjects. I got accepted to study law at UTS and was extremely privileged to be the only recipient across NSW who was awarded a $20,000 scholarship. I had changed the course of my life but little did I know I would have an emerging mental health problem that would impact my studies and even my personal relationships.

Divorcing the personality of the rebel that I had adopted so well over the years was difficult. I had lost a huge part of my identity and it honestly felt like I was that kid in kindergarten again - lost… only except this time in a larger and even stranger world. I developed a substance-abuse problem as my way of coping.  

Fortunately, I was blessed that my mentors at university saw not only potential in me, but encouraged me to keep on moving forward. During this time, I learned to develop resilience, but most importantly, I came to a view that there are not enough leaders in the world who inspire young people.

After being invited to share my story at UTS Law’s 40th Anniversary Celebration in late 2017, I was extremely humbled to receive standing ovation from over 300 guests including some of Australia’s most notable changemakers. I was inspired on this night to grow into somebody who would be of service to others and to make a difference in the world.

I am now an emerging human rights lawyer. I am committed to advocating for the rights of all humans and be a voice for all young children who are being denied the opportunity to live, love and laugh.

As a motivational speaker, I have spoken to over hundreds of young people across Sydney to inspire them to pursue all that sets their soul on fire.

To all young people starting out, I encourage you to dream big. Dream so big that by achieving such a dream, you would have made a difference in the world… and remember, with all that you achieve in your life, always love and serve one another.


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