What comes to mind when you think about graduation at The Australian National University (ANU)? Gowns? Speeches? Selfies?
If you’re an ANU College of Law graduand, one of the big day’s newest traditions is a pledge. First recited at the December 2018 graduation ceremony, the pledge gives law graduates the opportunity to collaboratively acknowledge the ethical and professional responsibilities that come with receiving a legal education.
Marcus Dahl (BSc/LLB (Hons) ’18) and a team of volunteers from the ANU Law Students’ Society (LSS) including 2018 president Suchara Fernando (BAsSt/LLB (Hons) ’18) created the pledge – the first of its kind for Australian law graduates.
“The idea came about when I was undertaking a Health Law, Bioethics and Human Rights course in April,” said Marcus, the 2019 recipient of the ANU University Medal, Blackburn Medal for Research in Law and ANU Tillyard Prize.
“We studied the Hippocratic Oath and the Declaration of Geneva used by graduates of medicine, and it seemed to make sense that law graduates, as people who are professionally educated and carry society's expectations, could do well to have something of their own.”
After researching the initiative, Marcus wrote to the Dean of ANU College of Law, Professor Sally Wheeler OBE, MRIA, FAcSS, FAAL, seeking approval to form a student volunteer team to create a pledge.
“The letter outlined the arguments for why it would be relevant for law graduates, including those who go into practice and those who do not, and how there were some similar precedents internationally but not in Australia,” he said.
After Professor Wheeler approved the student-led project, Marcus teamed up with Suchara to solicit student input.
”The idea behind the pledge was to create a sense of unity amongst ANU law graduates and as a way to affirm the sense of community after law school,” Suchara said.
“We advertised widely and openly for volunteers, as well as for students who wanted to provide input. All volunteers were invited to team meetings. We gave our time to the project because we were passionate about reflecting our shared values and obligations as ethical law graduates at the time of graduation.”
Marcus noted students preferred the idea of a “pledge” rather than “oath” because the former is “a clearly non-religious term reflecting the inclusive nature of the law school”.
“Some of the lines of the pledge, where appropriate, were adapted from the Declaration of Geneva used by graduating medical students around the world.
“Some lines were written by me, while others were suggested by team members. All were then edited and circulated to the team for feedback.
“We gave the final draft of the pledge to the Dean and the Chancellor for approval, and also tabled it at an ANU Law Students' Society meeting for explanation, critical feedback and approval.
“It was then published both online and in the Law Students' Peppercorn magazine for comments and feedback from interested students and staff.”
The ANU College of Law Pledge
Marcus Dahl (BSc/LLB (Hons) '18) at his graduation ceremony on 13 December 2018 with ANU College of Law Dean Professor Sally Wheeler OBE, MRIA, FAcSS, FAAL and ANU Chancellor Professor the Hon Gareth Evans AC, QC.
to see it take shape,” Marcus said.
“TheWheeler and guest speakers all spoke about how it was a momentous occasion, which could be replicated around the world.”
The pledge “is not meant to be a static document”, Marcus added, meaning future members in the ANU LSS may update it as needed. Reciting the pledge is also optional for graduates.
“I look forward to seeing the pledge used, debated and adapted by the ANU College of Law in the future,” he said.