Mother and daughter share masters graduation

Dr Sally Cockburn and her daughter, Amelia Edwards, celebrate their graduation from the Melbourne Law Masters program together.

Amelia Edwards’ great-great-great grandfather Francis Maloney White was the architect behind the University of Melbourne’s famous quadrangle and former home of Melbourne Law School.

More than 160 years later, both Amelia and her mother, Dr Sally Cockburn, were able to celebrate their graduation from the Melbourne Law Masters program in the quadrangle that had cemented their ancestor’s reputation as an architect.

“We’ve been looking forward to graduating together and we timed it perfectly so it was really fun to walk across the stage with mum,” Amelia says.

Amelia, a lawyer at KHQ with a focus on creative industries, graduated with a Master of Laws, while Sally, who practises part time as a GP and hosts 3AW’s Talking Health program, has added a Master of Health and Medical Law to her credentials.

“It’s so special to have finished the course at the same time and to have graduated together,” Sally says.

“I’m so proud of Amelia. I’m proud of her intellect, I’m proud of how worldly she is and her compass for social justice.”

For Amelia, it was a love of words and a desire to help people that inspired her to study law, and drives her work at KHQ and as a volunteer with Peninsula Community Legal Centre.

“What I find so rewarding about the law is acting as the mediary between the problem and the solution, by helping people understand the legal system and what their rights are,” she says.

“I love being able to translate and communicate really complex ideas and the secret language of the law.”

Having lent her medical expertise to various government inquiries and panels over her 35-year career in health and the media, Sally’s decision to pursue her Master of Health and Medical Law was driven by a thirst for knowledge.

She first became interested in the law in 2010 while working as a consultant on a class action case about the effects of the drug Thalidomide on unborn children in 1950s and 1960s.

“What I learnt was that lawyers use many of the same words as I do as a doctor, but they mean different things for lawyers,” she says.

It’s something that Sally would like to help address now that she has completed her Masters.

“I’d love to work with law firms to help them understand the medical aspects of things and the nuances.”

“I do believe doctors need to be taught more about the law and lawyers need to be taught more about how health plays out in practice.”

Studying alongside her daughter has proved a great example of this cross-disciplinary understanding, with the Masters helping the lawyer and the doctor to speak the same language.

“It’s brought us closer together and we can now have conversations coming from a similar background and understanding,” Amelia says.

“Amelia said at the beginning that I was going to have to learn how to think differently,” Sally says.

“It has been great having her as my tutor and to be able to ring and say, ‘I don’t get this!’”

Find out more about the Melbourne Law Masters