This speech was delivered at Wilson Hall at the University of Melbourne on 29 July 2017.
Presiding Chancellor, Members of the University, fellow graduates, ladies and gentlemen.
It is an honour to have been asked to give the valedictorian speech today, and to say a few words of reflection on the past three and a half years before we go out into the world as law graduates.
I also can’t help but think how appropriate it is that the last thing I will do for this degree has so many parallels with my first exam. There too, I was heavily reliant on my notes, convinced I was going to stuff it up, and utterly in awe of my fellow students.
Like many of you sitting before me, the transition to Pelham Street was not something I found easy. As is often the case amongst postgraduate students, and law students more generally, I suffered serious (and sometimes debilitating) anxiety in my first year, and as I approached the first round of exams I was fully intending on dropping out.
That impulse wasn’t exactly pacified after I forgot my copy of the Constitution in our Public Law exam – an oversight I still have nightmares about – but I managed to survive that first semester, and the next one after that, and here we are today.
I must admit however that the thing that kept me around wasn’t just the intellectual affinity I had with the law. Rather, what made my experience at Melbourne Law School impossible to walk away from was the group of students I shared the journey with. They served as a constant source of support and inspiration, and ultimately made the experience the most rewarding one of my life.
Because we were more than a cohort of students, studying law as a chapter in our individual stories. We were a community.
Together, we joined or formed extracurricular organisations aimed at making the law school a better place for our successors. We competed in moots, witness examination competitions and mixed netball. We put on innumerable events, from hosting respected members of the judicial and political classes, to refugee activism meetings, to corporate networking events and law reform panels. We engaged in debate, in the classroom or in the pages of De Minimis, our officially unofficial newspaper.
We showed that we cared; that we weren’t just there to study cases and take exams but to contribute to and shape our learning environment. It’s that level of passion and commitment that assures me the legal profession, and the many other industries that we will pursue careers in, will be well served by today’s graduates.
So to everyone that has been involved in our journey – we owe you a great debt of gratitude. Because this past three and a half years were hard, and if there’s one thing I know about law students, it’s that we made sure you all knew just how hard.
To the LASC and wellbeing staff, librarians, administrators, security guards and cleaners: you made the law school a welcoming place. Whether it was proof-reading our papers, showing us how to use WestLaw or simply offering a smile and a chat in the lift – you provided your services with patience and professionalism, and it made all the difference. Thank you.
To the faculty: you introduced us to the law. From privity, to jurisdictional error to whatever Hart and Fuller were arguing about, you facilitated our pursuit of knowledge and challenged us to be so much more than we thought that we could be. You acted as ambassadors for the law school and legal scholarship, and for that, we are grateful.
And to our partners, families and friends: you bore the brunt of our anxiety, sleep deprivation and complete lack of perspective. You offered us unwavering support when we wanted to give up, or worse, wanted you to read over our legal theory essay for the fifth time.
I know that I would not be standing here without the love and support of my partner Chloe, so to all those who performed a similar role, we say thank you for sticking it out with us.
To my fellow graduates. We did it. Congratulations!!