ANU Law alumna named 2022 Rhodes Scholar for South Australia

Lauren Skinner
Lauren Skinner hopes to use her legal skills and knowledge to make a 'more just, more equitable society' a reality.

Even before graduating from The Australian National University, Lauren Skinner (BA/LLB (Hons) ’19) knew she wanted to use her law degree to deliver better justice outcomes for First Nations peoples.

From her internship with the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency to her current role as a criminal solicitor at the Aboriginal Legal Service, Lauren has always been driven to use her legal skills and knowledge to address inequality and injustice.

Now, she is preparing to deepen this commitment through her newest pursuit as a 2022 Rhodes Scholar.

Lauren was recently named as South Australia’s 2022 Rhodes Scholar and, like fellow ANU Law graduate and 2022 Rhodes Scholar Madeleine McGregor, she will pursue a Bachelor of Civil Law at the University of Oxford. Lauren’s focus will be on jurisprudence, political theory, and human rights.

In this Q&A, Lauren reflects on the significance of her latest achievement and why she is driven to advance social justice causes.

Congratulations on your achievement! Can you describe how you felt when you found out you were awarded a Rhodes Scholarship?

Thank you! Due to border restrictions, I participated in the Rhodes selection process over Zoom, so at first I actually thought I must have misheard the Governor. Once I was reassured that I had correctly heard the announcement, the combination of excitement, joy, disbelief, and nerves I felt is difficult to describe. The best part by far was calling my family on FaceTime and telling them the news. They’ve been my biggest supporters through this whole process, and it was so wonderful getting to see their faces when I told them I was Rhodes Scholar and I would be moving to Oxford.

What does being the recipient of such a prestigious scholarship mean to you and what do you intend to pursue with it?

It is an immense privilege and honour to be awarded such a prestigious scholarship, and it is certainly taking some time to get used to the ways in which the scholarship has changed and will change my life. In particular, I am conscious of the platform that accompanies being named a Rhodes Scholar and I want to ensure that I use that platform well.

My motivation for furthering my education and in applying for Rhodes has always been my concern about the inequality and injustice that is present in our society. In my Rhodes interview, I spoke about the fact that we are so lucky to be Australian, but that we can and should aspire for more. The over-incarceration of First Nations peoples, the unavailability of universal healthcare and housing, and our inaction on climate change are just a few examples of areas in which we can and should be doing better in Australia. I hope that with the knowledge, skills and platform gained through study at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, I can be part of a future where we address these issues and have a more just and more equitable society.

"My motivation for furthering my education and in applying for Rhodes has always been my concern about the inequality and injustice that is present in our society."

Your career so far has focused on social justice, and you’re focusing on human rights with your Rhodes Scholarship. What drives your passion in this area?

At a foundational level, it really is a deep sense of injustice at the inequality in the world around me. I’m also motivated by a strong sense of gratitude for the immensely privileged life I have led and the opportunities I have had – I feel a sense of obligation to use those skills and opportunities to benefit others. I was fortunate to attend a school that had a strong focus on social justice and being a person for others, and this interest in social justice was further nurtured through opportunities at the ANU. Finally, a lot of it comes back to my family. My parents are the most generous and loving people I know, and they have been wonderful role models in terms of wanting to lead a life where I give back to my community and the people around me.

What advice would you offer a student or fellow alumna/us considering further study with the help of a scholarship?

Don’t be afraid to apply! Every Rhodes Scholar I have spoken to at one stage thought there was no way they would be chosen. It can be easy to be intimidated by the prestige associated with Rhodes and similar scholarships, but it is always worth trying, and you shouldn’t underestimate yourself. I didn’t even expect to make it to the interview round when I first applied, and it took me two attempts to be successful.

Also, talk to as many people as possible! My experience has been that most people are willing to share their stories and provide advice to students and recent graduates. I learnt so much from coffee chats with people who had studied in England or worked in areas of interest to me, and this all contributed to me being able to apply for a Rhodes scholarship with a clear purpose and idea of where I saw my future going.

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