Catholic education, part of Rhodes Scholar Emilie McDonnell’s success

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Home > Media > News > Catholic education, part of Rhodes Scholar Emilie McDonnell’s success
Catholic education, part of Rhodes Scholar Emilie McDonnell’s success

Receiving a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship for her achievements is something 23-year-old Tasmanian law-student Emilie McDonnell is still coming to terms with.
“I was shocked [as] it’s one of those things you apply for but you never expect to get,” she said.

“I’m very excited and very grateful.”

A trained classical singer, law was not the first choice of career for Ms McDonnell.

However her desire to help others was always a priority, and after completing grade 12 she realised law would be the perfect means of making effective change in the justice area – particularly for refugees and asylum seekers.

This sense of justice and mission is something that Ms McDonnell gives much credit to her Catholic education for.
A student at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic School at Lenah Valley, Sacred Heart College at New Town and Guilford Young College in Hobart, Ms McDonnell said her Catholic education provided her with many justice opportunities, as well as a strong ethos and sense of mission.

“The focus on compassion, justice, equality and a sense of fellowship is dominant in all Catholic schools I went to and I think that instils that sense of wanting to help other people rather than doing something always for yourself,” she said.

“Catholic schooling provides those opportunities [because] there are so many committees, societies and programs and the capacity to support students [interested] in community involvement.

“I was always involved in organisations such as Amnesty, St Vincent de Paul and any kind of social justice work, throughout my schooling.”

Ms McDonnell who developed the Refugee Legal Service with a group of Tasmanian lawyers in 2013, has just completed her Bachelor of Arts (Criminology major) and Bachelor of Laws with First Class Honours in Law, at the University of Tasmania.

The Rhodes Scholarship will see her study at Oxford University in England, in 2016, where she hopes to complete a masters and a doctorate in civil law, with a focus on international refugee law and Australia’s asylum seeker policies.

“I want to write a thesis on bringing Australia’s asylum seeker policies into line with human rights law and refugee law and making it more humane, because at the moment I think it is something that is bringing our country down in a very big way and really needs to be worked on if we want to become influential as a good human rights country.”
Ms McDonnell said students today should believe they can all lead change in some way.

“Take all the opportunities you can and explore the kind of life you want to live knowing you have the capacity to become a leader,” she said.

“Become someone who is passionate about something and know that you can be your own change maker.”