When she was a young girl Benita Richmond’s parents told her she should become a lawyer when she grew up.
“That was usually when I was arguing with them,’’ the Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of Government/International Relations student recalled.
But it was to be many years and a circuitous route before Benita pursued that dream.
Although achieving quite well at school, after starting a family at a young age, she opted not to pursue tertiary education.
“With young children, a career was never really a consideration for me and I accepted jobs based primarily on their ability to fit around family commitments,’’ she said.
This included running a kitchen at a specialty cake shop and working in her husband’s building business, eventually leading to several roles in architectural sales and account management.
“I was successful because I am gregarious and good at talking but I didn’t feel like it was where I was meant to be long-term,’’ she said.
“Eventually I found I reached a point in the industry where a lack of tertiary qualifications was holding me back from progressing to more senior roles.”
As her children grew older Benita decided to study at university, but what degree?
“Like all good plans I started with a list.
“I wrote down all the aspects I enjoyed in my previous jobs and all the parts I didn’t like and then tried to find a career that would incorporate as many of the first list and as few of the second as possible.
“What was really important was something I could feel passionate about and utilised my strengths.”
With an interest in politics and international affairs, a double degree in Law and Government International Relations seemed a good fit.
“My parents always encouraged critical thinking and social awareness. I also love the problem-solving aspect of law.”
But having left school young and quite a few years previously, Benita was unsure about how she would cope at university.
“After I took the Special Tertiary Admissions Test, I went to my car and cried, wondering why I ever though I could study law.” She later discovered she had scored in the 98th percentile.
“There were a few other rough starts – some of the first cases I read felt like I was learning another language, but I persevered.”
Now in the third year of a Bachelor of Law/Government & International Relations Benita has excelled in her studies with a GPA of 6.79 (out of 7). She is also a member of the Griffith Honours College and works as a mentor to other alternative-pathway students.
Flying the Flag in the Vis Moot
With fellow students Maddison Barker, Bianca Fernandez and Stebin Sam, Benita competed against 43 other university teams and won the Budapest Vis Pre-Moot in April 2017.
Next, in the main competition in Vienna against 338 teams, the Griffith team made it through it through to the top 16 teams before finally getting knocked out by Cambridge University.
“We were the last Australian team standing!” said Griffith Law School lecturer and Vis Moot coach Associate Professor Therese Wilson.
“Of our Queensland based colleagues, UQ got knocked out in round 32 and QUT in round 64. University of Sydney didn’t make it through to the finals and Monash made it to the top 32 before getting knocked out.
“We were proud to be flying the Australian flag at the end and our students received generous support for that from the other Australian teams. The competition was won by the University of Ottawa.”
Benita attributes the Griffith team’s success to good preparation and teamwork.
“We had a good balance of both confidence of knowing we were well prepared and the humility to understand that you can never predict exactly where the questions will go,’’ she said.
“Ultimately though, I think it came down to teamwork. My partner Bianca Fernandez and I spent a lot of time working with each other on our arguments and were commended by the arbitrators on our cooperation.
“Behind the scenes our other teammates Stebin Sam and Maddison Barker, were also an invaluable support, helping with research, taking notes and giving feedback on every performance.”
With another couple of years of study before she graduates Benita is keeping her options open.
“Because I have worked in several quite different jobs in the past I am not as fixed on a specific job title so much as the aspects of each individual role and the company I work for.
“Within law, I really enjoy advocacy and am open to any opportunity that presents itself within litigation, arbitration or alternative dispute resolution.
“I love engaging with and learning more about other cultures and it would be amazing if my job could incorporate that. My dream job within the government and IR sphere would be working within an advisory or diplomatic role with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade or similar.”
Whatever path she chooses, Benita says it was her parents’ advice to use her voice which set her on the path to career success.