Law graduate Sarah Dobbie drew inspiration from an unusual source for her address at the ANU College of Law mid-year graduation ceremony in Canberra last week - the graffiti etched by her fellow students on the desks in the ANU Law Library.
Speaking to the more than 170 law graduates and their families, Sarah said she had surveyed the aspirations and despair of her fellow students by reading every word of graffiti scratched and scrawled on all 48 desks in the law library.
“I found support, advice and inspiration from the voices of my peers. As I read the graffiti, I didn’t agree with all the opinions – I didn’t like half of them and questioned the sanity of many - but that didn’t change the importance of the thoughts,” she said.
Some of the questions students asked were profound, according to Sarah, including: What is the meaning of life? Should I do honours? What is law?
But it was the permanent marker message on desk number 10 – “check your privilege” – that got Sarah thinking deeply about the privilege and responsibility of studying the law.
“No matter how or where we begin our careers, we have been gifted unique insights to rights and remedies, and we have the opportunity privilege and responsibility to make genuine differences to the lives of individuals, the matters of corporations and the well-being of nations.
“Whether corporate, government or community, to whatever great, or little, degree we use our degrees, we will always maintain the responsibility: to use privilege wisely, to share knowledge generously, and to never forget that it is we that are so advantaged.
“Our education has given us what millions fight for – the freedom of choice, of genuine options.”
Sarah said it was important for her fellow graduates to remember that if they could fail at what they didn’t want to do, then they might as well take a chance to do what they loved, taking up the challenge of one graffiti artist: “It’s only your life, only you have to live it.”
“It might not be immediate and it might not be for years. But we would let ourselves down if we don’t take the jump,” she said.
In concluding, Sarah implored her fellow graduates to remember the words scratched on desk number 15: “We are the ones we have been waiting for.”
Sarah, who spent five months as an intern in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia working on the Khmer Rouge genocide trials during her degree, graduated with a Bachelor of Laws with Honours and a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations.
Following a recent internship with the United Nation’s High Commissioner for Refugees, she will be spending the rest of the year volunteering as a Refugee Legal Adviser in Egypt.
BY LYN LARKIN