How our academics are building a brighter future: Associate Professor Anna Copeland

Murdoch University's Anna Copeland smiling at the camera inside Boola Katitjin

Murdoch University is on a shared journey that welcomes anyone who wants to make the world a better place. Meet Murdoch’s academic who has spent more than two decades guiding our future generation of legal practitioners.

There are so many ways to make a difference in the world. 

For Associate Professor and Director of Clinical Legal Programs, Anna Copeland, she’s been doing her part for more than two decades in the field of Law at Murdoch University. This is her inspiring story, educating and guiding thousands of future legal practitioners to become agents of change. 

It started with her strong sense of justice, particularly for social justice. An activist who thought studying to become a lawyer and understanding the legal system might strengthen the effectiveness of her activism. Although it turned out not to be quite the right path, she serendipitously discovered her true journey – one that continues to this day. 

“I ended up at law school but, to be honest, I didn’t really fit. I was wondering what I was doing there until I discovered community legal centres, and I was inspired.  

“Our legal system does not always have a lot to do with justice, but working closely with communities to improve both individual interactions with the legal system and reform the system itself? That was an exciting prospect,” Associate Professor Copeland said. 

“For me, success is not about how far ahead of everyone else you are, but rather how many people you bring with you.” 

Her career dreams really took off when the Murdoch School of Law and Criminology began a collaboration with the Southern Communities Advocacy, Legal and Education Service Inc (SCALES), a not-for-profit community legal centre (CLC). 

“I thought, ‘This is where I want to be’. It was an opportunity to increase the capacity of a fantastic CLC and be part of delivering much needed legal services to those most disadvantaged.  

“It was also an opportunity to educate law students about the real impact of the legal system and maybe give them a stronger sense of justice,” she said. 

This long-running program places Murdoch Law Clinic undergraduate students in a real legal practice, gaining invaluable experience under the supervision of academics, solicitors and barristers. It’s been an enormous success. Students help around 800 to 900 clients each year. The clinic has won multiple accolades including a national human rights award. All this together is a perfect match for Associate Professor Copeland, with her values aligning with a university that strives for the same progressive vision. 

“My teaching goals are all about getting students to understand what they can do, how they can improve the world and the lives around them.” 

As a university, Murdoch is different. Our strategy ensures we’re leading the way through the challenges that lie ahead: Ngala Kwop Biddi, Building a Brighter Future Together. This is a shared purpose to change lives and society for the better, solve complex future problems, whilst being an inclusive, caring community where anyone can realise their potential.  

“For me, it starts with acknowledging the past; the law and those who work in it have a lot to acknowledge. We have built a system which discriminates and entrenches disadvantage. We have to be part of shifting and changing that – and that is the brighter future part,” Associate Professor Copeland said. 

It’s also in how she teaches her students, our future law-makers, the capacity they have in improving lives around them, in their community and culture, and potentially even the wider world.  

“I think this is more important than how clever you have shown yourself to be or how high your marks are. For me, success is not about how far ahead of everyone else you are but, rather, how many people you bring with you,” she said. 

Murdoch has always been a pioneering university, from that first day our doors opened in 1974. Did you know we were the very first in Australia to introduce flexible admissions, considering factors other than school exam results? Or that we offered distance education, and welcomed First Nations, women and mature-age students when it wasn’t commonplace to do so?  

We’re continuing to lead the way, championing social equity, inclusivity, and diversity so we can all move forward – together. We all play our part in this. Just as Associate Professor Copeland is doing through law.  

We are on a shared journey to a brighter future. Learn more.  
Posted on:

31 Oct 2023

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