Legal expert Anna Copeland has over 20 years of experience in law, with a particular focus and passion for human rights, social justice and teaching in the community legal sector.
Anna studied a Bachelor of Arts in Politics and History, before applying for graduate entry into law. After graduating from her law degree Anna completed further studies in human rights and child rights, where she pursued her interest in justice and access to justice issues.
“I got my first taste of community legal centres at Youth Legal Service here in Perth, and I just knew that was the sector I wanted to work in. I wanted to use my legal education to make change and improve the situation of those most vulnerable in the community.”
Anna has always found community legal centres a fantastic place to work in and has met brilliant and dedicated people throughout her journey.
“The community legal sector has an energy about it which is born from wanting to improve access to justice, not just apply the law. It is the perfect combination of activism, reform and defending rights - I love it!”
Anna’s specialisations are twofold: her legal practice focuses on human rights and social justice, while her educational practice is about providing legal education and making it as ‘real life’ as possible through clinical programs to her students.
Legal and educational research
Anna’s specialisations in legal and educational practice has led to research into human rights issues such as housing, health and education, migration and criminal justice. She has also conducted extensive research into clinical legal education and the best ways to educate for justice.
Anna’s research has been published in journals, she has co-authored a book and most importantly, her research has been used in various ways in practice and for use in law reform.
“For me, it is the most satisfying when the research you have done can be useful to actually improve the reality of those most marginalised and disadvantaged. This is when law and legal research is most useful.”
Life as an academic at Murdoch
Anna has taught at Murdoch for more than 20 years with most of her teaching time spent in the clinical program run in collaboration with SCALES Community Legal Centre.
Murdoch has the very best clinical legal program in the state, and one of the best in the country. When I joined Murdoch, it was a university that had a reputation for innovation and a commitment to social justice and human rights. These are the factors that attracted me here and they are the factors that supported the development of our clinic.
SCALES is an internationally recognised clinical legal program, which not only helps students develop legal skills, but also gives them first-hand experience of the legal system and how it functions.
Anna also teaches the International Program on Human Rights in Geneva, Switzerland. The program is an intensive study run over the winter university break. It exposes students to Australian and international obligations, organisations associated with human rights, and the complexities surrounding it.
“The program lets you see what the practice of human rights on the international stage is really like. It really is phenomenal what opportunities students have access too here at Murdoch.”
As Anna explains, the advantage to studying law at Murdoch is without a doubt the real-world experience that students can gain.
“You have an internationally recognised clinical legal program, which places you in an actual practice, as well as excellent immersive international programs. This means that you are taught what will be useful in the real world.”
Anna’s top five tips for students to make the most of their university experience
- Enjoy what you do. Find out what you enjoy and what interests you, then pursue it. This is the recipe for life-long happiness.
- Don’t take yourself too seriously. Yes, some things you won’t do so well (like everyone in the world) but make sure you learn from it and move forward.
- Look after yourself. Spend time away from study doing what you enjoy, keep up connections outside of university and keep some balance in your life.
- Get organised. This can really help in every aspect of life, and it especially helps you to feel calm and in control.
- Realise that you have a lot to offer the world. The trick is to find out what that is, because whatever it is, it also has to make you happy!