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UTS: Law

Generation next

What do asylum seekers, offensive language, healthcare and climate change have in common? They're four of the areas under examination by the first-ever Quentin Bryce Law Doctoral scholars.

Named after Australia's first female Governor-General, the new scheme will see five PhD scholarships offered every year until 2013. Each scholarship includes a three-year $25 000 annual stipend, $1500 of research support, paid holiday, sick, maternity and parental leave as well as the opportunity to undertake a doctoral teaching fellow worth $25 000 a year.

The Faculty of Law's Associate Dean (Research) Lesley Hitchens says, "We wanted the scholarships to be distinctive; to have someone associated with them that we felt really represented what's important for us as law scholars.

"Quentin Bryce, as a woman, has obviously been a pioneer, but she's also had a very active career – as a lawyer and academic, in public office, in community engagement, and she's also had a strong role as a human rights advocate as well. So it seemed like such an interesting mix that said something about what we're trying to do as researchers and as a faculty."

It's a sentiment shared by the first recipients – David Carter, Elyse Methven, Anthea Vogl and Rachel Young (applications for the fifth scholarship, offered from Spring semester, close next month).

"To be one of the first Quentin Bryce scholars is an honour and a responsibility," says Young. "It's hugely inspiring, and a little daunting, to be doing this under the auspices of the Quentin Bryce Scholarship."

Hitchens believes the young scholars are up to the task. "When you look at the research topics of these students in some ways they can seem quite esoteric, but they're actually dealing with significant real-world problems. Their research has the potential to have an impact on how we deal with those problems in the community.

"For example, Rachel's trying to look at the role of property law in building a sustainable response to climate change. David and Elyse are addressing quite different problems in criminal law, but problems which can affect or create marginalised communities. While Anthea is researching asylum seekers."

Vogl, who plans "to investigate how stock stories about undocumented persons influence the regulation of onshore asylum seekers and determinations of refugee status in both Australia and Canada," was particularly drawn to the doctoral teaching fellow on offer.

 "As a postgraduate student, being able to be involved in the faculty whilst researching is a very attractive prospect."

So attractive that she turned down a number of other offers that would have seen her stay in Canada, where for the last two years she has been completing a Master of Law (Research).

Hitchens says, "What's interesting about Anthea is that we're going to build a cotutelle link, so she will actually have a joint PhD from the University of British Columbia and UTS."

With collaboration inside and outside of UTS key, the scholarships are set to fit well within the new UTS Framework for Doctoral Education which is being rolled out across the university this year.

"It's exciting to be joining the faculty at a time when it's developing and expanding its postgraduate research program and to be one of a new community of doctoral students," says Vogl.

Hitchens agrees: "It's about building the future of the nation by investing in research and young researchers, and if they pursue an academic career we are helping to build the future academic community as well."


Fiona Livy

Credits: Photographer: Joanne Saad

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