Melbourne Law School alumnus Dr Matt Collins QC establishes scholarship in father's honour

Prominent barrister and Melbourne Law School Senior Fellow Dr Matt Collins QC and his partner Leonard Vary have gifted $20,000 to award a scholarship in Dr Collins' late father John's name.

Dr Matt Collins QC with his late father John

Dr Matt Collins QC with his late father John upon graduating with his PhD in 2000.

The scholarship will be conferred based on financial need, reflective of the opportunities Dr Collins wants to provide for students as his parents did for him.

John Collins was born in England in 1942 in impoverished circumstances, and moved to Australia via the United States in 1968, where he became a secondary school teacher.

Understanding the transformative power of education, he and his wife Robyn, also a teacher, made sacrifices to enable Dr Collins to become the first in his family to obtain a law degree.

Dr Collins says he and Mr Vary, also an MLS alumnus, know what a privilege it is to be the beneficiaries of a world-class education, and the donation is a way of giving something back to "an institution with which we feel deeply connected, and towards which we will always feel a debt of gratitude."

"Behind every graduate there is a story - often of the sacrifices made by parents for the sake of the advancement of their children. We were lucky to grow up at a time when the financial pressures on students were less acute than they are today. We believe that scholarships of this kind can make a substantial difference," Dr Collins says.

"We hope the scholarship will be the difference that enables someone who would otherwise not have been able to afford to go to law school to do so, or that enables a student to participate more fully in the life of the University than would otherwise have been possible."

Dr Collins says his father was firmly of the belief that each generation should have it better than the last, and having grown up in difficult circumstances, saw Australia as a land of almost limitless opportunity.

He says upon being awarded his PhD in 2000, he and Mr Vary were moved by the pride John felt of his son for achieving something almost unimaginable to him during his childhood, but that was within reach of his children.

Dr Collins has fond memories of the Law School and still maintains a strong connection through his teaching and as a member of the Melbourne University Law School Foundation board.

"I remember (as a student) the intensity - even ferocity - of academic debate between lecturers and students, and among my cohort. I remember being conscious of what a privilege it is to have the space and time to think and reflect. And, of course, there was the terror of facing my supervisor and great mentor, Professor Sally Walker, with each new draft of my doctoral thesis," he says.

"As an alumnus of the MLS, I take great pride in its ongoing success. As a Senior Fellow, I get to teach some of the great minds of the next generation, which I always find both stimulating and inspiring. I joined the board of the Foundation in the hope that I might be able to make a contribution that assists in consolidating MLS's position as one of the great law schools of the world."

Outside of teaching and practising, Dr Collins is an accomplished legal author, with the launch of his fourth book last year, on the law of defamation of England and Wales, among his career highlights.

The book was launched by Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury in Middle Temple Hall, London - where the first recorded performance of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night occurred in 1602 - with most of the leading judges, barristers and solicitors practising in the media law field in England and Wales In attendance.

"It felt a long way from Melbourne," Dr Collins says.

Looking forward, Dr Collins hopes to continue deriving satisfaction from a combination of practice of law, teaching and writing.

"Our profession is always changing, and the challenges never seem to diminish, but it remains an immensely rewarding career for those of us who have the law, and a commitment to the rule of law, in our blood."

By Andy Walsh