We spoke to fourth-year law student Emiko about all things uni, life, awards and more. Read about how Emiko embraced every opportunity and her plans for the future.
My name is Emiko Watanabe, I'm a mature age student in my fourth year of studying a Bachelor of Laws.
I previously studied a Bachelor of Arts in Sustainable Development and Bachelor of Science in Energy Studies at Murdoch, in addition to a Graduate Diploma in Arts Management from WAAPA.
I decided to return to study due to the state of refugee and asylum seeker policies in Australia. I kept reading in the media about pro bono lawyers helping asylum seekers and I thought, “I want to be that person!”. I want to understand our laws, our legal system and the language of the law so that I can protect human rights and advocate for social justice.
What's been your greatest achievement during your uni studies?
There have been so many incredible experiences I have had throughout my studies so it’s really hard to single out one achievement!
If I had to narrow it down to a few I would choose receiving the Barbara Churchward Award in December 2018. I received this award in recognition for my exceptional contribution as a volunteer at the Environmental Defender's Office of Western Australia (EDOWA).
I also received the Geneva Academy Scholarship, so I'll be going on the 2019 International Human Rights Law Program in Switzerland to learn more about Australia’s obligations, international obligations and organisations associated with human rights.
Most recently, I won the Asian Australian Lawyers Association (AALA) WA Chapter Law Student of the Year award. One of four annual awards given by the AALA, the awards recognise individuals within the legal profession who have made significant contributions, both personally and professionally, to the progress of cultural diversity and inclusion, and whose performance has been outstanding in their field.
What was the best part about receiving the AALA award?
I was very humbled to receive this award, knowing that I had been nominated and chosen by my peers in the legal profession. It was great to be recognised for my contributions to the AALA as a Student Sub-committee member, my voluntary contributions, and my professional achievements at Law Access and the EDOWA.
I am very committed to being part of important conversations about cultural diversity outside of the law as well. In July 2018, I produced and hosted a four-episode radio show for RTRFM 92.1 to explore race, culture and identity in Australia. Earlier this year, I was invited to join the Diversity Working Group of the Community Arts Network of Western Australia. My aim is to bring my experiences from outside the law to contribute towards similar conversations and changes in the legal profession.
Why did you choose to study at Murdoch?
As a Murdoch University alumnus, studying at Murdoch’s School of Law was an obvious choice for me! Learning about sustainable development principles many years ago at Murdoch was what planted the seed that has grown into my passion for human rights and social justice.
Murdoch Law School also provides opportunities that facilitate the practical development of students through SCALES Community Legal Centre at the Rockingham Campus and the Human Rights Clinic at the Perth Campus. Murdoch Law School also runs several Study Abroad opportunities including the International Human Rights Law Program in Geneva.
These social justice focused opportunities are what specifically attracted me to study law at Murdoch, as I felt that it reflected what I wanted to achieve in my career.
What do you hope to achieve at the end of your course?
After I graduate, my plan is to complete my Practical Legal Training and then become admitted as a lawyer. I have always been really drawn to corporate social responsibility as well as corporate and government accountability and how these intersect with human rights.
My interests are likely to lead me to a career in environmental law, especially in public interest law like the EDOWA, or the emerging areas of business and human rights or technology and human rights.
There are so many pathways to becoming a lawyer or working in the law, so it’s hard to know exactly which path I will take. I know that I will be pretty happy as long as I am working in these areas and making a difference.
What advice do you have for aspiring lawyers?
Studying law is tough – I don’t think anyone who has studied law will tell you it is easy – but it's also incredibly rewarding. Law has opened up a lot of opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise, and I have met a lot of wonderful like-minded people along the way.
My advice for anyone studying law would be to not compare yourself to others and to do what you can within your capacity. Having awareness of what you can and can't do is important. Life as a law student is always hectic - balancing study, work, internships, volunteering and the rest of our lives! Be kind to yourself during stressful times and make sure you take time out to rest. If you're wondering "am I good enough to be a lawyer?" then the answer is most likely "yes"!
I have always had positive experiences at Murdoch so I would recommend it to anyone, especially for those looking to study law. Murdoch provides a supportive learning environment, with lecturers who are committed to seeing you succeed not just in terms of your grades but also in your career. Murdoch also has a very down to earth vibe on campus and fellow students are always happy to help each other out.
I really feel like law at Murdoch was the right choice for me!