Interview with Sophie Coffin, 2020 John Koowarta Scholarship recipient
The 2020 John Koowarta Scholarship was awarded to Sophie Coffin, a law student from Western Australia with a passion for intellectual property. The Law Council had the opportunity to interview Sophie and ask what is means to her to win the scholarship and what are her career aspirations after graduation.
What does it mean to you to be awarded the 2020 John Koowarta Scholarship?
This year I am incredibly honoured to be the recipient of the John Koowarta Scholarship. It means a great deal to me since the past recipients are lawyers and academics that I have looked up to for many years, so to become a recipient myself is an unbelievable honour.
To receive an award in honour of John Koowarta, a passionate advocate for our rights, really motivates me to continue pursuing a career in the law. As I am the first in my family to do so, it gives me the confidence that I am on the right path. I am very grateful to the Law Council for this recognition.
What areas of law are you most passionate about?
I am passionate about all areas of Aboriginal rights and social justice, however I am particularly interested in intellectual property law and protecting Aboriginal artists, art and artefacts. Western Australia is the biggest producer of Aboriginal art, and I believe the existing laws are inadequate to protect critical aspects of our culture. I would like to change this and give artists in community a voice. I am also interested in constitutional law, and the work of the Uluru Statement from the Heart towards a First Nations voice in parliament.
As you come to the completion of your university studies in the new year, what career aspirations do you have after graduation?
When I leave university next year, I hope to work in a commercial firm to create a strong foundation from which to pursue my passion for intellectual property law. I would like to combine by understanding of culture with commercial law. My ultimate aim is to serve my community and make a positive difference. As someone who has had the privilege of a university education, I believe I have a responsibility to give back to where I came from. Looking to the more distant future, I would like to represent my people and work for our rights with the United Nations.
From your perspective, what are some of the key legal issues and challenges the legal profession needs to focus on?
Currently, I think the legal profession face many challenges, and in addition to addressing gaps in art protection, I would like to see a focus on constitutionally enshrining a First Nations voice to parliament. I am also passionate about our young people in the system and would like to see the youth incarceration rates addressed by raising the age of sentencing across all states. Additionally, I believe there is a lot of work to be done in genuinely increasing diversity across the profession.
Any advice to applicants for next year?
My advice for future applicants is to be clear about what you want out of a career in law. As Aboriginal people, every area of our lives is affected by the law and has a long history of such. It is inspiring to think of how a career in the law can lead to change. However, one person can’t do it all, and I think it’s best to focus on what you are most passionate about. In this way, you will be most effective generally, and in the face of adversity.