When The Australian National University (ANU) Juris Doctor (JD) student Elizabeth Newman applied to the ANU+ program, her aim was to gain experience and professional skills that would be useful to her future career in law.
“I was enjoying studying my JD,” she said.
“Some of the Masters electives, like Law and Development in the contemporary South Pacific and Law Organising for Reform Justice and Inclusion, were particular highlights, but I felt like I needed to develop my skills outside the classroom further.”
Open to both undergraduate and postgraduate students, ANU+ is a program that formally recognises students’ experience and contributions achieved through volunteering.
In addition to giving back to the community, volunteers develop skills related to their employability prospects and, by reflecting on their co-curricular experiences, gain a deeper understanding of themselves and the world around them.
While completing the program, Elizabeth volunteered at many organisations including the University Toastmasters Club and the ANU Postgraduate and Research Students Association (PARSA). She was also active in the non-profit law area through her roles at the First Nations Governance Forum and the Canberra Community Law legal centre.
“The First Nations Governance Forum was the most invaluable volunteering experience for me,” she said.
At Canberra Community Law, Elizabeth handles front-desk enquires at the centre that is conveniently located in Turner, a short stroll from the ANU campus.
“From time to time, there are opportunities to help with research projects. Recently, I had an opportunity to 'shadow' one of the lawyers, which was quite fascinating,” she added.
Elizabeth credits the ANU+ program for instilling in her a new way of thinking about her abilities and how these can be applied to her career.
“Through the program, I accomplished a lot of things I didn’t think I could do,” said Elizabeth.
“Having volunteered in the non-profit law industry through the ANU+ program, I realised that I am truly driven by thinking about how law interacts and benefits individuals and society as a whole,” she added.
Elizabeth said she is glad she completed the program, which is underpinned by set hours for volunteering and reflective assessments.
“Having those targets to work towards made me committed,” she said.
"There were occasions when it was a tricky to balance with my other commitments and I considered leaving the program, but as it was a valuable experience I decided that I was determined to complete it."
Students are required to write a 300-word reflection for each 20 hours of volunteering. The program culminates with a 1,000-word essay in which students outline their personal development.
“Despite my initial uncertainty toward the value of the written tasks, reflecting on my experiences in writing actually helped me consolidate everything that I had learnt and made me realise what I had accomplished,” Elizabeth said.
Although she has completed the ANU+ program, Elizabeth’s days of altruism aren’t over. She continues to volunteer at two community legal centres and said she aspires to pursue a "socially conscious" career in law.