Law student Maia Cairns graduated with first class honours, bringing to a close a rewarding but also challenging university journey. The Griffith Law School graduate met the challenge with grace and determination.
After extending her degree for a year to come to terms with her father’s cancer, she was delighted to finally being able to call herself one of Griffith’s proud alumni. She puts it down to the support and drive of the Griffith Law School staff that “genuinely nurture their students to reach their full potential”.
“I am not the only one who has had to deal with crisis during their degree. I am also not the only one who has been helped to meet the challenge of achieving your best. Initially, the staff were my teachers, but they became mentors and now are friends.”
Through the Law School, Maia won scholarships to study international law in Paris and Prague. During these experiences, she learned policy from foreign ministers, jurisprudence from judges and soaked up the advice of world leaders like former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
“Griffith students gained a reputation in Paris for being able to go head to head with some of the best student minds in the world,” she said.
Maia completed her final-year thesis on people smuggling and cognitive linguistics. “A particular strength of Griffith University is its understanding the need to have a multi-faceted education in a rapidly evolving legal world.”
Her graduation comes 10 years after she read Bryce Courtenay’s The Power of One and was inspired by its narrator Peekay to help people pursue their rights. Now, only a month after leaving student life behind and starting work at the Attorney-General’s office in Canberra, she feels her career is already living up to her teenage ambition.
“It’s amazing what a difference you can make. At work [in Canberra] we solve problems that help the individual and the nation on a huge scale, from human rights policy to definitive international litigation. What you do actually affects people for the better.
“There are many problems in law that we [society] are only starting to address, especially in areas of human rights and access to justice.” Griffith Law School has led the way in addressing these problems and there is great progress being made now.
“The Griffith law degree was a very practical educational experience. Through hands-on clinics and subjects, the law school teaches a variety of relevant skills from oral argument during court appearances to negotiation skills that set students apart from other graduates.
“Law is for people who understand it’s going to be hard work but who are passionate about finding solutions and making society a better place. It’s important, too, not to be naive and to realise that you cannot fix all problems, but it is empowering to know you have a part to play and all the skills to do so.”