The former florist, and mother of seven, has felt the burden of life more than most. When her eldest son – who suffers with an intellectual disability – had a run in with the law, Johanna was left with few places to turn. After contacting law firms in her local town of Coffs Harbour, Johanna was met with disinterest from those she hoped could help.
Desperate to keep her son out of jail, the mother of seven decided to take on the fight herself. In a true David and Goliath story, Johanna did all the legwork to prepare a Section 32 application that would ensure her son got the help and treatment he needed and save him from being subjected to a discriminatory criminal system.
After a resounding victory in the courtroom, Johanna’s ambition to pursue her legal passion was firmly cemented. Taking her destiny into her own hands, she walked away from a life in floristry and enrolled on a Bachelor of Laws degree at Southern Cross University’s School of Law and Justice.
“We ended up winning the case and when my lawyer said, ‘I think you’re wasting your time as a florist’ that planted the seed,” she said.
“I enrolled in the degree at Southern Cross University because the law school is very social justice-orientated, and they have excellent lecturers who are very up-to-date with everything going on with the law.”
Sadly struck with tragedy when her husband died less than 12-months into her course, Johanna has managed to weather the storm of adversity and come out the other side. With immense personal strength and the support from Southern Cross faculty and peers, Johanna received her qualification in March this year. She has also been awarded the 2016 National Indigenous Law Student of the Year by the Attorney-General’s Department and is now looking at a future helping the indigenous community after securing a graduate role at prestigious Perth legal firm, Lavan Legal.
Success stories like Johanna’s are not unusual at Southern Cross School of Law and Justice. The combination of exceptional faculty, world-class specialised programmes, and a strong commitment to being an inclusive and culturally-safe environment for all means success forms a crucial part of the SCU experience. This dedication to inclusivity is manifested in the diverse student body that ranges from high school leavers to working adults, to anyone with a passion for making a difference.
This tight-knit School places a strong focus on social justice, reflected in the avenues of law that students can pursue. As part of the online and on-campus Bachelors of Laws (LLB), on top of the mandatory core units, students are free to choose elective units that best fit their passion and professional aspirations. These cover a diverse range of areas including Cyberlaw, Human Rights, Race and the Law, Animal Law, and Ecological Jurisprudence. Take, for example, this year’s Summer School ‘Theory on the Beach’ intensive electives, which cover the themes of Capitalism and Critique and Law, Politics, Culture.
It was this strong focus on social justice that attracted academic and Indigenous activist, Marcelle Burns, to SCU.
“My advice will be to choose a law school that matches your personal values, and Southern Cross did that for me because of the social justice focus,” says Burns. “I call it ‘the boutique law school’, as it offers a really unique law programme, and I think that the focus they have on law and justice forms well-rounded students.”
This four-year course can also be studied as a five-year double degree, leaving students free to pursue other passions in Arts, Business, Legal and Justice Studies, Music, Social Science or Sport and Exercise Science. This level of diversity in your studies is showcased throughout the Southern Cross curricula, meaning students are not pigeonholed into one specific field.
The varied range of online and on-campus undergraduate and postgraduate courses, including a new online Master of Laws (Business Law) and Master in Business Laws, leaves a whole world of opportunity open to students upon graduation, and a future as a court lawyer is most certainly not the only avenue open to you.
Graduate Tom Lynch chose SCU because it was the only university at the time offering a double degree in Law and Contemporary Music, and found the unique combination led him to a rewarding career acting as an advocate for struggling artists.
“I work in entertainment, and do volunteer work at the Arts Law Centre of Australia…we assist artists who would otherwise not be able to pay for legal advice,” Tom says. “That is the mentality that is very much bred at SCU Law School. Quite a large focus of study was the consideration that law is about more than just money and business, it’s about people.”
Courses such as Associate Paralegal, Business Law, and Law and Justice set students up for careers in any manner of fields in which they can make a real difference – including policy development, conveyancing, law enforcement, and legal aid services – as graduate, Benedict Coyne discovered.
“What I enjoy about the profession is using my expertise and knowledge that I’ve learnt from studying at Southern Cross University to afford people access to justice who wouldn’t otherwise have it,” says Benedict, who now works as the Queensland Convenor and National Committee Member of Australian Lawyers for Human Rights.
“It’s very energising working with clients who have suffered wrongs and you can assist them in getting redress for the damages that they’ve suffered through the legal system.”
Benedict attributes much of his success to the flexibility and exceptional standards of SCU. The School wants to make studying Law accessible to everyone, regardless of their circumstance in life, so makes their courses as manageable as possible through a range of varied learning methods – whether that be online, or on-campus, both of which use the latest cutting-edge interactive technologies to provide a personalised and highly-collaborative learning approach.
“I spent quite a lot of time comprehensively researching a law school that would suit my needs and the flexible delivery option that Southern Cross University offered was brilliant,” says Benedict, who is now progressing into a Masters of International Human Rights Law at Oxford University in the UK.
“That grounding at university and all of the opportunities that came through there, including working at community legal centres, and using the university’s network to access a whole range of different opportunities, has really set me up very well for a strong foundation for my legal career.”