A man of the law

Joseph Rao at his workplace Sherani & Co. Picture: SUPPLIED

A good leader inspires people to be the best they can through hard work and courage.  This was the sentiments shared by lawyer Joseph Benjamin Rao, who was admitted to the Bar during the University of Fiji School of Law graduation ceremony last month.

Mr Rao, a strong believer in Christian faith, originally hails from Taveuni and comes from a farming family, but his success did not start all glorious.

“I completed my primary and secondary school mostly on Taveuni except for forms three and four in Labasa.

“In 2003, cyclone Ami badly destroyed our family farm causing financial difficulties and as a result I dropped out of school after completing form six.”

He said he wanted to contribute to the livelihood of his family by attaining a good education, but had to drop out.

“My first employment was as stockman in Wainiyaku Estate on Taveuni. It’s a job that looks after cattle on the farm which includes cleaning and mending farm fence.

“At the estate I also worked in a coconut oil factory as well as a fireman. The factory requires me to work in a steam plant that produces electricity.

“After work at 4pm I usually do my own farming. I do this to fulfil my dream of getting educated. I needed money for that.”

Mr Rao believes that education helps one realise their calling in life.

He was the first school dropout in his community who returned to school after collecting enough money through his own effort.

He later joined Fiji National University (FNU) to pursue hospitality and tourism studies and having worked in the tourism industry where he attained awards such as;

  •  Best Performing Staff in Front Office 2013;
  • Best Creativity Award 2013;
  • Star Performer of the hotel 2009;
  • Aiming Higher Award 2009 and; and
  • Working Better Together Award 2009.

During his short stint in the tourism industry, Mr Rao managed to hold positions such as duty manager, guest experience champion, cost controller, purchasing officer and food & beverage service personnel.

“I always had a passion for education and new challenges, so, I joined JDP School of Law at Uni Fiji to pursue my career in law.

“I represented the university in the Mooting Competition in Christchurch, New Zealand and also in the first time ever in Fiji, ANZ Innovation Challenge in 2017.

“The challenge was to come up with original and innovative digital solutions that would benefit the lives of people in the Pacific.”

Mr Rao was recognised as one of the outstanding students for his idea to help the Fijian farmers with vital farm related information via a Mobile App, that idea he subsequently proposed to the government to help in the development of Fiji’s Agricultural Sector.

“Being a farmer myself, I believe that a strong agricultural sector in Fiji will help its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations General Assembly.”

He said apart from being a farmer and a hotel worker, he was now a lawyer.

“Almost in every interactions of human life, law is needed. For instance, Fiji needs law to promote SDG 16 which promotes peace, justice and strong institutions. Now sustainable development cannot be achieved without peace, stability, human rights and effective governance, governed by rule of law.

“There are no restrictions on how many careers you can have. It is not about the career itself, but what you can do with it and how you feel about it is what matters. Who is to say that an individual cannot have varied passion, talent, education and experience to work for the common good of humanity.

“Having said that we can only be the best if we have the love and support from our family and friends.”

He added his mother particularly had been an inspiration to him and he would like to thank her.

“She has been with me in every step of my life. Her love and support for me has been unwavering over the years. I get my inspirations from her. She is a living example of love, patience, humbleness, peace, loyalty, hard work and forgiveness. I owe my life to her. Without her, my life would not be half as good as what it is today.

“To achieve our dreams, we must work hard, keep humble and teachable, strive for excellence, ask a lot of questions and don’t forget to question the answer.”

He completed a Bachelor of Laws degree (LLB) in 2019 and Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice (GDLP) in 2020 from (Uni Fiji).

He attained a GPA of 4.35 out of 4.5 in his Law Degree as stated by acting Vice Chancellor of the University of Fiji, Professor Shaista Shameem, when addressing the panel of judges.


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