First Indigenous law graduate is dreaming big

Fresh from completing his degree, David Orr is off to Canberra to take up a position in DFAT's coveted graduate employment program.

“I have always wanted to study law. For as long as I can remember, except for a stage when I was five and I wanted to be a bus driver – so I could talk to all the people.”

It is certain that Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of Global Studies graduate David Orr will be talking to many people as one of the first group of lawyers to graduate at Australian Catholic University (ACU) and when he takes up a position with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra, often described as Australia’s most competitive graduate program.

“I owe a lot of my success in gaining this position to my time at ACU and support I received from the staff here,” David said.

“I was attracted to ACU’s new law program because it was a degree that was global, practical and ethical. As a new program it was exciting that we would have small class sizes and direct access to some of Australia’s leading legal academics.”

ACU is the only law school in Australia that makes pro bono work compulsory. Students can also take advantage of our international student exchange program, which allows part of the degree to be undertaken at one of more than 70 international university partners.

“ACU’s pro bono units have given me valuable experience in real world practice in differing areas of the law including in a family law practice that specialised in reuniting Aboriginal parents and children after time spent apart due to being removed by Family and Community Services – this had a profound effect on me as an Aboriginal person,” David said.

His global studies internship was undertaken in a law firm in East Timor in which David had the sole responsibility of registering the Edmund Rice Association of Timor-Leste, a local non-government organisation (NGO). This involved everything from writing the constitution to submitting the final documentation with the government and then delivering training to the directors of the NGO on their responsibilities under Timorese law.

“This was a life changing experience and made me realise the power lawyers have to have an impact of real change on people and in society,” he said.

“Studying a law degree doesn’t finish at the end of the course. It is about lifelong learning that comes with a social responsibility.”

David said the strong emphasis that ACU’s Thomas More Law School places on practical skills and its focus on a fundamental concern for justice, equity and the dignity of all human beings had a profound effect on him.

“I have become a changed person during my time at ACU. I started my degree wanting to practice in competition law and while I still have a passion for that area of the law, I saw a natural shift occur to having a human rights and international law focus that was only strengthened by my experiences here,” David said.

A Gurang Gurang man who grew up in Maryborough in Queensland, David found himself speaking on panels with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda and former High Court Justice Michael Kirby about the recognition if Indigenous people in the Australian Constitution and access to higher education.

“Not only have I been challenged to understand what the human person is and how what I am studying impacts people but I have also been challenged to explore what being human means to me and my own role in society,” he said.

As Australia’s leading Catholic university, ACU is committed to a distinctive perspective on higher education; one that equips its students with the skills and knowledge to engage with the challenges of our contemporary world. ACU graduates are leaders, defined by a unique set of values and an understanding of how high ethical standards in decision-making have a positive impact on organisational success, communities and society at large.


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