Established in recognition of two renowned disabled legal academics, the first cohort of David Benjafield Scholarship and Ron McCallum Interns will commence in early 2024.
Following the launch of a lecture series, the University of Sydney Law School has announced two scholarship programs for disabled law students. The two programs will offer paid work experience in the legal profession and students will get a chance to work in an organisation that helps marginalised and disadvantaged communities.
The David Benjafield Scholarship, named after Professor David Benjafield (1919-1980) who was a founding member of the New South Wales Law Reform Commission, he also presided as Dean and taught at Sydney Law School for more than twenty years. The Scholarship is open to both undergraduate and postgraduate students in the Law School.
Another program, the Ron McCallum Internship Program, takes its name after Emeritus Professor Ron McCallum. Both provide an opportunity for a disabled law student to work with organisations, including community legal centres such as the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC).
McCallum is the first totally blind academic to secure a full professorship at any university in Australia or New Zealand when he was appointed as the inaugural Blake Dawson Waldron Professor of Industrial Law in 1993. He also served as Dean of Sydney Law School for five years between 2002 and 2007 and was a special advisor to the Disability Royal Commission.
Established in 1982, PIAC is a renowned community legal centre offering free legal advice to people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. The body also provides legal support for public interest cases, including reforms to strengthen disability anti-discrimination laws.
Speaking to Honi, Sydney University Law Society (SULS) Disabilities Officer Lucas Kao said that the impetus behind the scholarship and internship programs were to represent and combat obstacles in the legal profession facing students with disabilities.
“The goal is to help students navigate and challenge structural inequalities and lack of accessibility for disabled students in the legal field,” said Kao.
“In inspiration of their careers and the impact they have made, the two programs were made to honour them whilst hoping to build support for current and future generations of law students.”
The organisation also has strong ties to student unions on campus, notably assisting the Students’ Representative Council (SRC) in a successful case against the University of Sydney on HIV discrimination between 1993 to 1996 soon after the Disability Discrimination Act came into force. The case ended in a settlement and the University retracted its previous position of effectively barring students who tested positive to HIV, Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C from graduating.
Expression of interest for the two programs is open until 5 November 2023 and can be accessed here.
The first cohort of David Benjafield and Ron McCallum interns will take their positions in the first half of 2024.
[Top Image: A photograph of the University of Sydney Law School and Law Lawns. Photo courtesy of the University of Sydney]