Knowing there isn’t enough Indigenous representation in that field, particularly among women, really motivated my decision to study law.
Stephanie Bloxsome’s ambitions to be a leader both in law and her community recently received a boost after she was awarded the 2019 Freilich Indigenous Student Scholarship in Law.
Stephanie, a Juris Doctor (JD) student at The Australian National University (ANU) College of Law, aspires to be a pioneer in the legal profession.
“Knowing there isn’t enough Indigenous representation in that field, particularly among women, really motivated my decision to study law,” says Stephanie, a Dharawal woman from Nowra, New South Wales.
The Freilich Indigenous Student Scholarship in Law aims to offset some of the financial burden of attendance at University in the first year of study.
Despite having never received a scholarship, Stephanie applied at the encouragement of Professor Asmi Wood.
“I thought that it might be useful if I was successful in supporting an overseas study tour, such as the Alabama Summer Program. It came as a big surprise and an honour when I found out I was successful,” she says.
“I haven’t ever really been driven to go overseas, but he (Professor Wood) has worked in Chicago and he told me to experience everything, then make the call.”
Stephanie came close to studying law as an undergraduate at the University of New South Wales. After successfully completing a pre-program, she deferred for a year to work before eventually studying a Bachelor of Arts (Anthropology and Gender) at the University of Sydney, where she graduated in 2016.
However, the “law bug” never left her and, while working as an editorial and production officer at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), a legal researcher from the native title unit persuaded her to revisit law as a postgraduate student.
“His message to me was: ‘do law, get your foot in, and then see where you go’,” she says.
Balancing study with her work at AIATSIS, Stephanie credits Dr Lisa Strelein, an adjunct professor at the National Centre for Indigenous Studies at the ANU College of Law, for instilling in her the desire to remain active in Indigenous affairs.
“We have some people in native title at the top of their field who choose to be at AIATSIS, and they inspire me a lot. I draw a lot of motivation from being around people who are passionate and making a difference,” she adds.
Looking toward life after graduation, Stephanie hopes to apply her legal knowledge at a local level.
“I don’t want to be too narrow, but it would be really cool to work in Nowra Courts. It would be amazing to work in the legal sector – if you’re going to do it, you may as well do it 100 percent,” she says.
However, she is realistic about the challenges associated with community legal work.
“My mum has worked in Indigenous service-delivery jobs and it is quite draining, especially because mob just know you and it can be quite hard,” she says.
“Either way, working as a lawyer in my own community would be inspiring for the younger kids.”