Conversations for change
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Casey Murnane wanted to study law to positively contribute to causes close to her heart. When she discovered the Bachelor of Arts (Western Civilisation)/Bachelor of Laws option, the chance to also explore the intellectual traditions and culture of the West was too good to pass up.
A high-achieving student from Mary MacKillop College in north Brisbane, Casey learnt about the double degree from Australian Catholic University (ACU) student ambassadors visiting her school.
“I was already geared towards studying at ACU, as it had a big influence at my school,” said Casey, whose Catholic alma mater is in Nundah, about 5km from the university’s Brisbane Campus.
“At first, I was inclined to just do the law course, but when the double degree was brought to my attention, it was something really different.
“What intrigued me most was being able to study the Western civilisation content, all the old literature. And I felt that, by doing the two together, I would see the connections and that would help with both sides. I felt the Western civilisation degree would help me understand how law started and was conceptualised from that perspective, and I thought it would be interesting to learn how those traditional, quite timeless ideas would contrast with studying contemporary law.
“I really love to have my thoughts challenged and to think outside the box a bit.”
A Ramsay scholarship of $150,000 awarded across the five-year course cinched the deal.
“The scholarship is really helpful in terms of my study because it’s such a demanding course and you definitely need to study hard to ensure you’re getting the best out of it,” said Casey.
“I don’t necessarily have to work a part-time job, which is amazing, and I am very grateful to have received the scholarship. It really helps take that pressure off and means I can focus completely and wholeheartedly on my studies and achieve the very best I can without having to worry financially.”
Exploration and conversation
At the start of 2022, Casey relocated to Sydney so she could study at ACU’s North Sydney Campus.
All Western civilisation courses are taught in classrooms surrounding the Ramsay Lounge: a spacious, open-plan facility for sole use of the scholars accepted into the competitive liberal arts degree.
“We have the entire 11th floor of Caroline Chisholm House,” said Casey. “It’s a really good place to engage with the seminar materials with other students as it feels more like a classroom as opposed to a lecture hall. It’s very quiet and quite secluded.”
She is really enjoying her first semester. Contracts law is the winner of the two foundation law courses she’s studying, but her Western politics class has been the standout experience to date.
“We’ve looked at multiple texts such as Plato’s Republic, Cicero’s Republic and the Antigone play, and we’ve just finished Augustine’s politics. I really love this course; it’s been so, so interesting.
“It examines politics through such a different lens, and really makes you re-evaluate and question how the ethos of contemporary society either reflects or contrasts with how people thought back then. It also gives you different vantage points of politics with the Western tradition influence and how the conversations surrounding the different political frameworks are evident in contemporary society.”
Western civilisation class sizes are capped, and Casey has appreciated the in-depth, guided discussions that enables.
“The interaction is what I really love about them. It’s not a lecturer expecting you to absorb information, take notes and leave; it’s an open conversation. It’s a lot of, ‘What do you think about this?’ ‘What are your thoughts?’ That constant dialogue is something I have really, really enjoyed.”
One highlight was a debate that allowed her to collaborate with her peers outside of class.
“I really enjoyed meeting up outside of our classes and having our own conversations in that sphere. It changed the dynamic and, rather than our lecturer being the orb of conversation, it was students sharing their understanding of the information, so we got a wide range of perspectives and ideas.”
Thriving away from home
With the support of the Ramsay scholarship, Casey decided to stay in ACU’s student accommodation in Camperdown. She said the decision has made her move from Brisbane surprisingly smooth.
“It’s been such a great transition for me. Everyone is super lovely, the staff and RAs (residential advisors) are very helpful if you have any issues, and I have no complaints at all about the facilities. I love being here.
“There are also so many people doing my course living here, which is great as it’s really good to collaborate outside of class. I love the residential events we get to do too – I love socialising with the other residents. It’s just the whole vibe, I guess.”
The friendliness of the accommodation echoes the overall sense Casey had of ACU before she started: “It’s warm and inviting, and I feel like every student is seen and noted.”
It’s a long way to the finish line yet for Casey, but she already has an end goal in mind.
“I would like to specialise in either environmental law or animal welfare. That’s the overall goal. The main reason I wanted to get into law was to have some sort of contribution to those issues. I am very passionate about those things, and I often feel like I’m not making too much difference. But if there’s some legal influence I can have, I’m hoping that will help me make a positive change.”
Discover the Bachelor of Arts (Western Civilisation) and Bachelor of Arts (Western Civilisation)/Bachelor of Laws at ACU.