For Southern Cross University law student Angela Powditch, it feels as though Christmas has come early.
The Lennox Head local recently returned from a month-long summer school at Oxford University in the UK, where she made many influential contacts.
Angela was one of 70 students from around the globe who attended the prestigious and highly competitive Oxford/George Washington International Human Rights Law Summer School.
“I completed two subjects in a month and I introduced myself to everyone I possibly could,” the second-year student in the School of Law and Justice said.
The list included Justice Lord Mance from the UK’s Supreme Court who dissented in the Julian Assange case, Justice Richard Goldstone who was appointed by Nelson Mandela to the Transvaal Court of South Africa and was also the Chief Prosecutor of the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda and Professor David Kaye, the UN Special Rapporteur on the protection and promotion of the Right to Freedom of Expression and Opinion.
Professor Kaye also helped Angela get to the UN Human Rights Office in Geneva, Switzerland, where she met Azin Tadjdini, the Associate Human Rights Officer for the Special Procedures Branch Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Angela also contacted Professor Gillian Triggs, President of the Australian Human Rights Commission while she was at Oxford and has been offered a meeting with her next time Angela is in Sydney.
“I was so excited when I walked into the UN Office and looking out from the balcony to Lake Geneva, I said to Azin I just needed a moment to collect myself as I feel like my five-year-old son on Christmas morning,” she said.
As a single mum, Angela said it was only through the fundraising support from her friends, peers and SCU that she was able to make the journey.
The community helped raise some of the funds needed to cover the expenses, after Angela set up a GoFundMe account and was honest about her situation.
“I’m immensely grateful to those people I don’t know personally who believed in my dream and were willing to support me. SCU International helped organise a federal government OS HELP loan scheme which I can repay and SCU Alumni came through with a one-off scholarship,” she said.
Angela is a member of SCU Law Student Society, earned the 2015 Far North Coast Law Society Scholarship, and recently completed a Telstra mentorship, where she was paired with Telstra legal counsel Virginia Galloway, through the University’s Career Development Service.
The former marketing manager said personal hardship was the catalyst for embarking on a career in law.
“After attending a careers panel at Oxford, I realised the common theme was a personal experience which made the decision to work in this field a foregone conclusion.
“I have found it sometimes takes a bad situation in your life for you to finally work out what you are meant to do. Mine was a marriage breakdown and my experience with the family law system,” said Angela.
“The process has already started as I have been invited to write a blog for the Oxford Human Rights Hub on this topic.
“I would encourage other students out there with difficult personal circumstances to keep going. Sometimes when things seem at their bleakest, you can use this experience to create an even better life and help others.”
Geoff Manion, the acting head of the SCU School of Law and Justice, said Angela’s “wonderful achievement” had provided her with invaluable exposure to the international human rights legal community.
“Through her vision and commitment to making this opportunity a reality, she has created possibilities for her future career development which are exciting and meaningful,” he said.
“Angela is proof of the high calibre of SCU law students, and will undoubtedly in the future be yet another SCU law graduate who makes a significant contribution on the world stage.”