Maddison Perkins is using her Tuckwell Scholarship to the ANU to try to make the world a better place, especially in areas like mental health and human rights of persons with disabilities.
Her sister has Asperger syndrome, so growing up Maddison learned about injustice and how movements for human rights can assist people in specific areas of their lives. Her experiences influenced her to invest time into helping her fellow students.
“I’ve been involved with ANUSA (the ANU Students’ Association) for the past two years,” she explains.
“Last year I was a General Representative and this year am the Chair of its Mental Health Committee.
“A lot of ANUSA positions are advocacy-based where we run educational events for different students on campus, and act as a general support network for fellow students.”
This has led to opportunities to help people off-campus, too.
“Last year I went to the Pathways 13 disabilities conference, and also with the support of the Disability Students Association been able to attend events with the Canberra-based disability service, Advocacy for Inclusion,” Maddison says.
“For a lot of that, I wouldn’t have known where to go or where to begin if I hadn’t been studying at the ANU.”
“I’ve always been passionate about human rights and through high school got involved with extracurricular activities through UN Youth and debating,” she says.
“I’d thought about studying international relations, but after reading the ANU course guide saw that it offered a human rights major.
“As a major it’s different to a lot of other arts majors because you’re able to study in various schools. I can do political science courses, gender studies courses, history courses, sociology or Asian studies – all with a human rights focus.
“It’s a great way to get a broad understanding of the different theories behind the same topic.”
Maddison moved to Canberra from Blayney, in the central west of New South Wales.
“Living on campus was helpful in getting me grounded, as there was no one from my school here.
“I’ve gotten involved in a bunch of arts competitions such as debating and dance, and have also tried new things like hockey.”
She’s also an active committee member of the Law Students’ Society and helped organise activities including an introduction to law school, and pre-exam tutorials.
Maddison’s not certain about practicing law after graduating, but she will definitely make anti-discrimination a focus.
“I would love to create polices around disability services,” she says.
“At this point I’m not specifically sure where, maybe the National Disability Insurance Agency or the Department of Human Services.
“I’m keeping my options open, and I’ve got a few years to go.”