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Interview with Cameron Downey, 2022 John Koowarta Scholarship recipient

The 2022 John Koowarta Scholarship was awarded to Cameron Downey, a law student from Queensland University of Technology. The Law Council had the opportunity to interview Cameron and ask what is means to him to win the scholarship and what are his career aspirations after graduation.

What does it mean to you to be awarded the 2022 John Koowarta Scholarship?

To put it quite simply, it is a tremendous honour – for not just me personally, but my family, community, and university – to be one of the 2022 recipients of the John Koowarta Reconciliation Scholarship. Notwithstanding its namesake, one only has to consider what previous recipients have gone on to achieve to understand how meaningful this scholarship is to Indigenous law students. With that in mind, it was honestly a complete surprise to be one of the 2022 awardees. To be considered in their league is incredible. Prestige aside, this scholarship will go an especially long way into helping me reach my goals, and I really cannot emphasise how much it means to me.

What areas of law are you most passionate about?

As a Bachelor of Information Technology student, I would be lying if I didn’t say I have a keen interest in cyber security law. I similarly have a particular interest in how the two disciplines could be combined to not just increase access to justice for Indigenous people, but streamline legal processes. In terms of the more orthodox areas of the law, I have an interest in:

As you come to the completion of your university studies in the new year, what career aspirations do you have after graduation?

Post-graduation, I hope to be admitted as a lawyer in 2023 and intend to pursue a graduate role with one of the larger firms in Australia. In the more distant future I also hope to undertake postgraduate studies.

From your perspective, what are some of the key legal issues and challenges the legal profession needs to focus on?

I have briefly touched on it, but the biggest issue the legal profession needs to overcome is access to justice. While COVID has shown us all that legal work can be completed from home and shared with a client in their home, this does not appear to have led to an increase in access to justice. I would almost argue it has gone in reverse and left disadvantaged Australians (who, for example, may not have access to a viable internet connection or necessary device) even more disconnected from the legal system. Going into the future the legal profession needs to think more seriously about how it can effect an increase in access to justice.

On another note, while COVID has led to technology being further incorporated into our everyday lives, technophobia still persists in the legal profession. It is high time that the profession recognises that there will eventually be digital solutions for many of the things we currently do. One of the biggest challenges facing the profession is, therefore, not to be afraid of these advances in technology, but to instead embrace them.

Any advice to applicants for next year?

Do not be dissuaded from applying if your university results aren’t outstanding – I speak from experience when I say my results aren’t perfect. Similarly, do not be disheartened if your application is not successful one year. Remember that there are likely many equally deserving students from across Australia all vying for the scholarship. Keep working hard on your studies, keep undertaking opportunities available to you and keep applying. This scholarship is too good not to at least put an application in.

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