ANU law student Catherine Bladen interned in Australia’s top law offices while they were dealing with some of the most important constitutional law cases in years that called into doubt the legality of various parliamentarians.
The 2017 Leslie Zines Constitutional Scholarship winner spent five weeks in the Office of Constitutional Law at the Attorney-General's Department (AGD) and five weeks at the Office of General Counsel at the Australian Government Solicitor (AGS).
“This was a unique opportunity to have insight in to a wide range of constitutional law matters, as well as get a sense of how the Constitution impacts on government policy and action on a day-to-day basis,” the final-year Juris Doctor student recalls.
“For example, I was able to see the types of matters that the Attorney-General gets notice of where a constitutional argument is raised, as well as understand the considerations that go in to the government intervening in such cases.
“I attended a Parliamentary inquiry in to matters relating to section 44 (which concerns disqualifications) of the Constitution, as well as assisted with section 44 cases that were before the High Court.
“The internship was also a great opportunity to learn about areas of constitutional law that we didn't have much time for in class. I undertook research tasks on subjects such as the acquisition of property on just terms and State references of power to the Commonwealth.”
Catherine applied for the $15,000 Zines internship – applications for the 2018 prize close 29 April – to build on her classwork.
“I applied because I really enjoyed studying Constitutional Law and wanted to get a sense of what the practice of constitutional law was like,” she says.
“The biggest highlight for me was attending High Court cases dealing with unsettled areas of constitutional law, then being able to talk with the lawyers involved afterwards.
"The staff at both AGD and AGS were very generous with sharing their knowledge and including me in everything. It was an incredible opportunity to see how case theories develop.”
Catherine is grateful to the Zines Scholarship donors for allowing her to have the experience.
“I obviously would not have been able to learn all that I have without their generosity,” she says.
“On top of that, the scholarship has already helped me get other opportunities. In my final week, I was offered an associateship with Justice Bromwich at the Federal Court in Sydney next year, and my experiences during the internship undoubtedly helped me to get this position.
“I'd also like to thank James Stellios and the other ANU staff who helped to set up the internship. I'm sure a lot of work went in to making it happen.
“I would definitely recommend the internship to students interested in public law and government. I didn't feel like a shoe-in, so I would encourage anyone thinking about applying to just go for it.”