The School of Law’s best and brightest

12 October 2020

The University of Notre Dame Australia’s School of Law in Sydney recently announced the winners of their prizes and scholarships for 2020. More than 30 students from across the School received an award – with a few exceptional students accepting more than one.

Dean of the School of Law, Professor Michael Quinlan praised each and every student for their adaptability during the transition to online learning and their perseverance during this unusually stressful year. “2020 has been a challenging year for many, and despite this, our students have shown great dedication to their studies. They should all be very proud,” he said.

Click here to view the full School of Law Prize List.

Among the 2020 School of Law prize recipients were students Charlotte Haling, who received The Colin Biggers & Paisley Scholarship (CBPS) for Academic Achievement, Leadership & Community Service, and Michael Dimarco, who placed first in the Private International Law course and also received the prestigious Waterhouse Family Award.

First-year student, Charlotte, was humbled to receive the $1000 scholarship, which recognises outstanding academic achievement, contribution to the community and leadership demonstrated by a first year undergraduate law student. “It was nice to know that all my hard work paid off, and I felt very grateful to be rewarded,” said Charlotte, who plans to use the prize money for textbooks and accommodation costs when travelling to Sydney for her studies.

Charlotte has also been fortunate enough to meet her scholarship donor, former Managing Partner of Colin Biggers & Paisley law firm Mr Dunstan de Souza, who was able to offer insight into what being a lawyer is all about. “We discussed the practical aspects of becoming a good law practitioner, the pathways I am able to take and how to make the most out of university. For example, always asking questions and nurturing relationships with professors and mentors,” says Charlotte.

While Charlotte found the experience of meeting a mentor hugely beneficial, Dunstan believes mentoring is valuable for both sides. “Three partners at Colin Biggers & Paisley mentor students at Notre Dame. As an organisation we feel it’s an important thing to offer students the ability to connect with someone who has lived experience in the industry,” he says. “As mentors I think we learn as much from students as they do from us about new ways of thinking and doing things.”

Colin Biggers & Paisley sponsor seven other awards at Notre Dame University and occasionally host networking events with prize winners and faculty. “We established this scholarship because our experience of Notre Dame students has always been so positive,” says Dunstan. “An unexpected benefit has been that it enables us to find good people, and students find a good place to work. Many of our past scholarship recipients have ended up working at Colin Biggers & Paisley, and hopefully one day become leaders in the firm.”

For Michael Dimarco, who is about to complete a Bachelor of Laws (Honours) degree, receiving the Waterhouse Family Award was a new source of motivation. “The Waterhouse family's generosity in the form of this award acknowledges effort and hard work. I feel grateful and motivated to have received it, and aim to undertake further legal study in the future,” he says.

The Waterhouse Family Award provides a one-off financial contribution towards the living costs of a law student who achieves the most improved grade point average from one year to the next – and 2020 was no average year for students.

“Having a goal was integral to maintaining my focus throughout this pandemic,” says Michael. “Well before COVID-19 and the associated restrictions occurred, I had academic goals that were motivated by other, longer-term goals. This helped me view transitioning to online study as just another challenge along the way. If you have a reason to work hard, you will. And if you work hard, you will be successful.”

Scholarship donor and Notre Dame School of Law alumnus, Ray Waterhouse, agrees: “Life is about picking yourself up and stepping back into the challenge,” he says.

“The Waterhouse Award endeavours to acknowledge the determination, perseverance and grit demonstrated within every student, but more importantly in the student that achieves the highest academic improvement,” adds Ray. “Having been an undergrad and also a mature-age student, the first year of any university degree is often when students – irrespective of age or past experience – have difficulty adjusting to university life, the workloads, new concepts and discipline (or lack of discipline!). This award is to recognise people who are extraordinary in their ability to achieve within themselves when faced with tough or challenging times.”

A successful NSW cattle farmer, Ray says he and his family place great value on hard work and wanted to establish this scholarship to reward that characteristic in students. “From our point of view, there is no greater achievement in work, study or life than when you stumble or face challenges that test your resolve but you overcome them.

“We wanted the winner to understand that we, and the University, acknowledge the huge personal effort required to demonstrate the greatest academic improvement within the year.”

Award recipient Michael’s advice to others just starting out their degrees is to invest time in thinking about your reason and purpose for studying. “Someone who has a true purpose for doing something is less likely to be adversely affected by setbacks and disappointments,” he says. “Also, be proactive at university; opportunities have a way of arising for those who seek them out.”

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