ANU College of Law alumnus Marcus Dahl received the Blackburn Medal for Research in Law for the best result in an Honour Thesis. In December 2018, he also received the University Medal and Tillyard Prize.
Why did you choose to study law at ANU?
There were a few factors that impacted my choice: ANU College of Law’s focus on social justice and law reform, the university’s great local and international reputation, and the fact that an ANU law degree would prepare me well for legal practice, non-legal work or academia.
I also wanted to try living on campus, I’d heard that ANU had a very diverse and supportive campus-living culture, with many opportunities for social, sporting and leadership development. I found that to be true, and I ended up living on campus for four years.
Have you undertaken any international opportunities or clinical internships? If so, how have they shaped your outlook on law?
My first legal experience was with Aboriginal Legal Service (ALS) NSW/ACT here in Canberra. I loved volunteering for ALS. It was the perfect way to start my legal career, well-supported in an organisation that does essential legal work for the community. It inspired me to stay true to my reasons for undertaking a law degree, and to keep challenging myself with social justice opportunities.
I also did placements in at the Kimberley Community Legal Services and the Australian Law Reform Commission, which taught me to connect the legal issue to the person or place it affects, and to be able to explain it in simple terms. In the end, the legal system is about people and the society we live in.
I have recently returned to Australia from a six-month placement as a foreign law clerk at the Constitutional Court of South Africa. It was a privilege and honour to be welcomed into South Africa's highest court as a foreign clerk, and my diverse friends and colleagues in this country taught me much about the role of law and rights in society. Australia and its legal system have a lot to learn by looking to legal systems overseas, which have tried things differently, and this particularly seems to be the case in the fields of human rights law, immigration law, administrative law and Indigenous affairs.
Who has been your most influential academic and why?
My supervisor, Dr Anthony Hopkins, was absolutely fantastic. Our conversations were really honest and helpful. I'll cherish them as the kind of deep academic engagement that I was so excited to find when I first came to university. I'm also grateful to Professor Mark Nolan for his encouragement to take on a topic that fused psychology and law. I was lucky to have a role model in the law school who has a strong background in psychology.
What advice would you give future ANU Law students?
I strongly encourage everyone studying law to do a thesis. It's hard work, yes, but it is such a special opportunity to take your learning and thinking to the next level, and challenge yourself to make something original.