After a 40-year teaching career, Griffith Law School student Kirk West continues to make a real difference in the lives of others.
Immigrating to Australia from the US in 1974, Kirk worked in education before taking up a contract to help develop baseball in Alice Springs. Over the years he accepted teaching roles in Charters Towers, Toowoomba, Brisbane and Townsville, before travelling around the US and returning to Australia to “settle in to retirement”.
“Throughout my life, I always held onto a desire to study law. I’ve spent my life working with students and trying to help them achieve their goals and in many ways, I think Law is similar. I’m hoping that I can gain some knowledge and qualifications that give me a chance to help people who are suffering or disadvantaged,” he said.
Facing the next chapter of his life head on, Kirk applied to study law and received three separate offers for study. He chose to enrol at Griffith Law School after researching his options and speaking with current students.
“I was impressed with the academic staff and the students I spoke with were really positive about their experience, so I felt that Griffith was a good fit for me.”
“I think study at my age can be extremely enlightening — and humbling. I’m in a totally different environment and I find it exhilarating and inspiring.”
“The most challenging aspect of studying at this stage of my life has been the amount of information I need to know, but my family and my wife Suzanne are extremely supportive. All of my life failures and successes provided a strong base and experience to draw from in order to process the challenging work I come across in my studies.”
Kirk has been eager to grasp the opportunities presented to Griffith Law students and recently completed the Innocence Project course — a collaborative pro bono project that brings together lawyers, academics and law students to work to free innocent persons who have been wrongly convicted in Australia — an opportunity Kirk describes as “incredible.”
“It really opened my eyes to some of the harsh realities that others are exposed to and really made me think about the direction I wanted to take in law.”
Kirk also volunteers with ADA Law (Aged and Disability Advocates) advocating for clients who have suffered elder abuse, or are otherwise disadvantaged.
“I love this type of work, making a difference in the lives of my clients. It is extremely rewarding.”
“I would highly recommend returning to study after a long-term career — especially in a totally new field.”
“Academic and support staff at Griffith have been incredibly helpful. Their knowledge and preparation is first class. At Griffith, I have been so lucky to have some of the best teachers I have ever seen.”
Kirk also credits his fellow students for their willingness to include everyone, regardless of their circumstances or stage of life.
“I have a number of my study partners on speed dial and we text quite often about things happening in a course, or about how to approach an assignment.”
As his studies draw to an end, Kirk once again has his sights set on the next chapter of his life and hopes to secure work in Senior/Elder Law, Family Law, or Community Law.
“I really like the satisfaction of knowing that I’ve made a difference in someone’s life.”