Five more questions before you graduate: Alice Dawkins

Alice-Esther-Dawkins standing next to Burmese lawyers in Minbu, Magwe Division, Myanmar, June 2017
Alice Dawkins standing next to Burmese lawyers in Minbu, Magwe Division, Myanmar, June 2017

The collegial culture within the teaching teams is second to none.

Why did you decide to study law?

As a high school student, I was a voracious reader. Law seemed to be a natural intellectual pursuit for someone with interests across history, philosophy, and literature. I also went through the inevitable and important human rights barrister aspiration. Once I arrived at ANU, I thought about dropping law numerous times, and effectively did after third year -- I had allowed myself to believe that I wasn’t good enough, and that I should stick to an easier route for picking up top grades. Suffice to say I’m glad I persevered. 

What was the best thing about your time at ANU College of Law?

The collegial culture within the teaching teams is second to none. The access you have as an undergraduate to our nation’s brightest legal minds is exceptional. What is even more exceptional is the generosity of spirit across the college, the joy that academics bring to their work, and the immediate social impact that ensues from ANU Law research. 

What would you say to someone who is thinking about studying law?

Do it, do it because we need people in this place who enter law with wide-ranging motivations and ambitions. Do it because no matter what people say, we always need more advocates in our society. Do it because law is a language of power, that you can harness to strengthen not only yourself, but others around you.  

How did winning a prize help you?

A transformative moment was becoming the inaugural recipient of the New Colombo Plan Fellowship to Myanmar, where I was able to conduct original research on the young and emerging generation of Burmese political lawyers, mostly from the National League for Democracy, which I have since presented at international conferences and will soon have published in an academic volume. I was in Myanmar when U Ko Ni was assassinated and when the atrocious violence in Rakhine State occurred, grim and influential chapters in Myanmar’s shaky relationship with rule of law, so it was research that had its own modest real-time impact and relevance. To do this as an undergraduate was an immense privilege.

What’s next?

A mix of the unusual and the unexpected. I had the chance to work in some top-rate legal environments as a student (UNHCR Malaysia, King & Wood Mallesons Hong Kong), but for now I’m endeavouring to amass experiences outside of the traditional graduate recruitment path. At the moment, I’m living in Beijing as a Schwarzman Scholar at Tsinghua University, where every day is different. If you have the privilege to graduate in law at the ANU, you have the privilege to take your career in virtually whatever direction you choose -- I would urge students to think critically about how they wish to progress and improve themselves post-graduation, and to dodge the temptation of merely taking the low-hanging career fruit. 

Updated:  10 August 2015/Responsible Officer:  College General Manager, ANU College of Law/Page Contact:  Law Marketing Team