Tiffany Lau UTS student, mentee of Michael Kirby and winner of a New Colombo Plan Scholarship for Legal Studies 2017
High Achievers Mentoring Program 20 February 2017
I [too] would like to acknowledge the Gadigal People of the Eora Nation upon whose ancestral lands UTS’ campus now stands. I would also like to pay respect to the Elders both past and present, acknowledging them as the traditional custodians of knowledge for this land.
Good evening ladies and gentlemen and distinguished guests.
Over a year and a half ago, I received an invitation, which was to my surprise, to participate as a mentee in the High Achievers Mentoring Program. The excitement for me did not stop there – I had shortly received a personal email from The Hon. Michael Kirby, introducing himself as my Mentor. Not many students from my high school go on to study law. I entered law school not following the footpaths of anyone I knew personally, but only those from whom I had admired from afar in books and in the media, who I considered advocates for social change. Being mentored by The Hon Michael Kirby was an opportunity I could have only ever imagined, and I feel incredibly humbled and very privileged to have been a part of this program, especially as a representative of UTS.
I had the privilege of primarily assisting The Hon Michael Kirby with his work for the United Nations High Level Panel on Access to Medicines, which was established by the Secretary-General at the time, Ban Ki-moon. The Panel sought to address the policy incoherence that exists between the international intellectual property regime and universal human rights. A rewarding aspect about the program for me, was that I was given the opportunity to contribute to solving a complex global problem – I grappled with an area of law that was novel to me, and navigated scientific concepts which were foreign to me. Although I found this academically challenging, thankfully, my mentor guided me with great patience. As a law student, I feel very honoured to have had the opportunity to contribute to work that has the potential to make lasting impact on the lives of millions. Moreover, to have worked under the guidance of someone I had always admired, and today, admire even more so. The program provided me with an avenue that I never had before: I could share my concerns in confidence, about the future of the law, and the confusion and uncertainty I felt as I began to lay the groundwork for my career.
I think what my Mentor has given me the most is courage. Courage to be myself – especially on days when everything, and everyone in the law world is just too overwhelming. Courage to learn from my mistakes. Courage to persevere. Courage to always continue to grow as a better person. Had it not been for the courage I was given, I would not have even considered applying for scholarships. It was with this courage that I pursued something that I believed was outside my parameters. It was with this courage that I was able to sit nervously before of a Panel of members from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Department of Education in an interview. And now it is with this courage that as a New Colombo Plan Scholar I will move to Hong Kong for 6 months this year, and work in Tokyo next year. I could not have done any of this without the support of my mentor and this university. I thank The Hon. Michael Kirby for mentoring me – for being such a positive influence in my life, which I know will have a lasting impression on me. I also thank the Faculty and university for its ongoing support from the first day I started law school. I am grateful for the passionate nurturing staff I have been under the wing of – many of whom have invigorated my love for the law and enabled me to appreciate its role in our society. I feel incredibly privileged to have been a mentee in this program, and to be a student of UTS. The mentoring program has enabled me to realise the kind of person I want to be. It has allowed my aspirations to come into fruition. Although this program has come to an official end for me, I know that this is really only the beginning.