How a desire to help led Lachlan to the law
High-achieving graduate aims to forge a career in social justice
Lachlan Auld’s sense of social justice was formed at an early age. Growing up with three disabled siblings in the small town of Ardlethan in rural New South Wales, Lachlan became profoundly aware of the inequities people can inflict upon each other.
“The prejudices of a small country town were significant and soon resulted in bullying perpetrated against my siblings, and by extension, myself,” he recalled. “The local school failed to appropriately accommodate for the needs of my siblings, and after several years of proactive efforts made by my parents to stimulate change in this regard, they decided to home-school us from the time I was in Year Six.”
It was through these experiences that Lachlan was inspired to pursue a career in law.
“My more unique set of circumstances have made me acutely aware of social justice issues, and I have since had a burning fire to act for those who are unable to fend for themselves. At an early stage, I realised that becoming legally qualified was a pathway to achieve this.”
Today (Tuesday 17 April), Lachlan graduated with a Bachelor of Laws with 1st Class Honours and a Bachelor of Commerce with Distinction. At the graduation ceremony he was awarded the University Medal for being the most outstanding law student in his year of graduation.
This was assisted by the fact that he attained the highest mark in the majority of his subjects - 21 subjects in fact. While this is an exceptional achievement in itself, it is even more remarkable when seen within the context of Lachlan’s life.
Lachlan’s parents owned the post office in Ardlethan, which they sold in order to home-school Lachlan and his siblings. Ironically, to have free time to teach during “school hours”, his parents ran a number of school bus runs, ferrying local children to school.
As Lachlan’s parents focussed most of their attention on teaching his siblings and catering for their needs, he essentially taught himself between grades six and ten, with the relevant learning material provided to him by the Balranald Distance Education Centre.
Lachlan studied hard, completing years eight and nine within a single year. After completing his School Certificate, his parents relocated to Griffith so that he could complete his HSC at Wade High School, which Lachlan duxed.
With a fierce combination of hard work and determination, Lachlan has put himself through university; he has juggled work at a local law firm with intense study, while living far away from his family.
He has gone from strength to strength during his time at UOW. While on exchange in Denmark last year, Lachlan received word that he was successful in his application to work as an Associate to Justice Virginia Bell of the High Court of Australia, a prestigious position which he is due to begin in July 2019. Only two UOW students had previously received this honour in the UOW Law School’s 25-year history.
Much of his success, Lachlan said, is due to the inspiration, support and mentorship of his teachers at UOW.
He most warmly acknowledged Associate Professor Dr Julia Quilter, Mark Saunders, Sandy Noakes and Dr Sandra Chapple. Dr Quilter, in particular, has helped Lachlan imagine a future in criminal law.
“Aside from epitomising brilliance in teaching and academia, and crystallising my passion for criminal law, Julia has been incredibly giving, supportive, and proactive in guiding me down the right path.”
Lachlan has also found a mentor in Justice Natalie Adams, of the NSW Supreme Court, for whom he has been working in the capacity of her tipstaff since finishing his studies at the end of last year.
“Justice Adams is an incredible mentor with an awe-inspiring capacity and, despite being the busiest and hardest working person I know, is remarkably generous with her time. As her tipstaff, and being in the common law division, I have already had exposure to a great variety of cases and am learning so much.”
Lachlan has come a long way from tiny Ardlethan, population 387. And if his past performance is any indication, his name will be one to watch as he climbs through the legal ranks.
“I am not yet precisely sure the direction in which I will take my career. I have a very strong interest in criminal law and am currently minded to work for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Legal Aid or the Aboriginal Legal Service following the conclusion of my High Court Associateship,” he said.
“I am, however, using my opportunities over the next two years to learn as much as I can prior to making any concrete decisions.”
It is clear that his siblings still inspire him and, today, Lachlan will become only the second person in his family to graduate from university, after his older brother, Bob.
“My family never pressured me to come to University, but they’re certainly very proud of what I’ve achieved. They continue to be a bedrock of support,” he said. “Ultimately, I think it shows that hard work and discipline can take you anywhere.”