Five ways ANU prepared me for a career in international human rights law

After graduating from ANU in 2019, Brandon Perkins (LLB (Hons)/PPE ’19) pursued his passion for the law and human rights.

ANU has a reputation in Australia, but also around the world, for its strong public international law work.

By Jack O Brien (student ambassador)

Brandon Perkins (LLB (Hons)/PPE ’19) graduated from The Australian National University (ANU) in 2019 with a Bachelor of Laws (Hons)/ Politics, Philosophy and Economics degree.

During this course of his career, Brandon has worked as an intern at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, as a legal officer in the Human Rights Unit of the Attorney-General’s Department and as a Policy Officer in the Multilateral Human Rights Section of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Brandon continues to pursue his passion for the law and human rights in his current role as a Public Prosecutor for the ACT.

Here are five ways in which ANU prepared Brandon for a career in international human rights law.

1. Wide variety of courses

“One significant advantage that ANU provides students interested in international human rights law with is its wide variety of human rights electives. During my Bachelor of Laws at ANU, I was fortunate enough to study electives including International Law of Human Rights (LAWS4225), Human Rights Law in Australia (LAWS4220) and Refugee Law (LAWS4271).

“These courses not only provided me with a comprehensive legal understanding of international human rights law, but also allowed me to demonstrate this interest during job applications and interviews.

“For example, during my interview with the Attorney-General’s Department, I was able to talk about a presentation I did on the rights of the child whilst studying LAWS4225. My ability to discuss this topic in detail, as well as demonstrate my interest in human rights through prior coursework, certainly helped me secure the job.”

2. Internship opportunities through ANU

“Another way in which ANU prepared me for a career in international human rights law is through the Law Internship Course (LAWS4230), which provided me with real-world experience working in human rights law. LAWS4230 is an amazing opportunity to get experience in a professional workplace for course credit and through the University support network.

“During my internship, I was placed at the ACT Human Rights Commission – where I was able to work on reforming the Bail Act 1992 (ACT) to comply with domestic and international human rights obligations. This involved extensive legal research into the application of human rights in the domestic legal system and allowed me the opportunity to work closely with members of the judiciary and public prosecution.

“Having real-world and relevant experience on my CV was invaluable when I was applying to jobs after university. Likewise, now that I work as a Public Prosecutor, I’m able to help apply the Bail Act 1992 (ACT) through a human rights lens every day.”

3. Supportive environment to pursue my career interests

“Building a successful career in international human rights law requires more than just good grades. Undertaking extra-curricular opportunities as a student can be just as important when it comes to standing out to a potential employer. From my experience, ANU’s support for students pursuing these opportunities outside of the classroom is unparalleled. They run regular networking sessions, support students undertaking extra-curricular initiatives and encourage students to build workplace experience in conjunction with their studies.

“For example, towards the end of my degree, I was notified of an opportunity to work for the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva by LAWS4225 lecturer, Professor Jeremy Farrall. Not only did ANU support my application for this position, but once I was offered the role, they provided me with a tailored flexible study program that allowed me to complete my studies while working in Geneva.

“Having experiences beyond the classroom helped me set myself apart from other applicants in the international human rights space and propelled my early career development. Without the University providing flexible learning arrangements, I don’t think I would have had the opportunity to pursue these experiences.”

4. Access to unique opportunities in Canberra

“Coming from Brisbane, I’ve seen how scarce employment opportunities in the human rights sector can be in Australia. However, Canberra is the exception to this. Canberra is undoubtedly the best place in Australia for human rights employment opportunities and, thanks to its location, ANU has formed strong connections with local human rights institutions.

“While at ANU, I was lucky enough to secure employment with the Human Rights Unit of the Attorney-General’s Department. This meant that from an early stage I was getting real-world exposure to what working in human rights looks like on a day-to-day basis.

“Many of my fellow students were also able to obtain similar opportunities through roles advertised on the ANU CareerHub, including for NGOs that specialise in human rights law, government departments such as the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and the Attorney-General Department’s Office of International Law, and even private companies that specialise in public international law. These opportunities can really only be found in Canberra and can give graduates a significant head start in building their careers.”

5. Likeminded peers that encouraged me to reach my potential

“The people that you surround yourself with each day can make such a significant impact on your life and, for me, I think a considerable benefit of studying at ANU was the people. ANU has a reputation in Australia, but also around the world, for its strong public international law work.

“Not only does this mean that the academic teaching is world-class, but it also means that the law school attracts like-minded students. Building a career in international human rights law is a passion for many ANU Law students and being in a community with similar aspirations certainly helped me see international human rights as an achievable career path. Not to mention, I’ve been lucky to meet some truly amazing people who I’m sure I’ll continue to work alongside throughout my career.”