A passion for social justice both in and out of the classroom

Second year Melbourne JD student Cassandra Hamill is consumed by a passion for social justice. As her primary interest both inside and outside the law, it is no surprise that she applied for the JD in order to pursue public interest law.

When Cassandra first began her tertiary education, she didn’t know where her study would take her, “I was attracted to a generalist Arts degree because I wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to take,” Cassandra says.

It was during her undergraduate study that Cassandra developed a keen interest for social justice. It was after taking some breadth studies through the law school that she realised studying law was an opportunity to apply her interest in social justice practically.

Now one and a half years into her degree, Cassandra has already participated in a myriad of social justice-focused internships and practical subjects where she has had the opportunity to meet like-minded students, teachers and professionals.

“I interned at the Department of Premier and Cabinet in the Aboriginal Affairs team,” she says.

“I had the chance to draft letters on behalf of the Ministers, work and contribute to briefs for the Premier, and do legal research for the government.

“I am also about to partake in a subject called Global Lawyer, which takes students to Washington and NY to introduce them to international career opportunities in a variety of international institutions.”

Yet, for Cassandra, it is the people – not just the opportunities – that stand out when she reflects on her fondest highlights from the Melbourne JD.

“I am constantly inspired by the people around me,” she says.

“Everyone comes from such different life experiences, and they all have different expectations and hopes for this degree. The diversity of interests and perspectives is really exciting to be exposed to.”

Applying her legal knowledge beyond the classroom, Cassandra also volunteers for Refugee Legal, an organisation that provides free specialist legal assistance to people seeking asylum, refugees and disadvantaged migrants.

“Volunteering at Refugee Legal has been a rewarding and practical insight into NGO work,” she says.

Many of her friends also balance volunteering, work commitments and other opportunities alongside their legal studies.

“I watch my friends push themselves to embrace every possible opportunity and try and keep on top of the intense work load,” she says.

“I am in awe of how hard my friends work, how motivated they are and how they remain delightful in spite of all that!”

Cassandra also says that teachers and professionals treat MLS students as more than just students. She reflects that everyone she has worked with in relation to her JD, from her peers at MLS, to her internship coordinators, are generous with their time.

“I would often be taken out to coffee to talk about opportunities available to us as students and grads,” she says.

Best of all though, she studies with a group that have their priorities set right: “I am infinitely lucky to have a group of friends to divide the UberEats delivery fee with in SwotVac!”

Cassandra believes that, more than anything she has learned from a textbook, it is the contacts she has made at MLS – students, teacher and professionals – that set her in good stead to commence her career in social justice.

Find out more about the Melbourne JD