After moving from rural Queensland to Brisbane to study at university, add in a few course changes later, Cassandra found her passion studying Law. Overnight, she went from healthy to paralysed and living life in a wheelchair. She never gave up on her studies and is due to graduate next year. This is her story.
“On days where I don’t want to get out of bed or study, I remember the days where I was in hospital, when I would have given anything to be back at QUT studying. Seeing how far I’ve come motivates me to keep going and not give up. My family are also incredibly motivating because they’ve been with me every step of the way”.
With the support of her friends, family, medical team, QUT Disability Services and the QUT Faculty of Law, Cassandra will graduate with a law degree from QUT in July 2021 but the journey hasn’t been easy.
Cassandra grew up in rural Queensland, becoming a carer for a family member in her final year of high school. She decided to take a gap year to figure out what she wanted to study while balancing caring responsibilities.
Moving to Brisbane to start university, she tried a few different courses but they didn’t resonate with her. “I really enjoyed this business law subject I did as part of a business degree and when I topped the unit, my tutor suggested I study law,” she said. “I applied to study Law at QUT and haven’t looked back since. It was the best decision I ever made.”
Completing almost two years of study, Cassandra was passionate about her studies and a career practicing law. But when Cassandra suddenly and unexpectedly acquired her disability she had to take six months off study and worked hard in rehabilitation therapy to re-learn everything, “something as simple as making a cup of tea I was no longer able to do anymore, let alone walking.”
Determined and supported by friends, family and QUT, Cassandra was able to progressively return to a full-time study load. Remaining involved and proactive within the QUT community, Cassandra has demonstrated incredible initiative. She has represented QUT in an international moot, became the QUT Law Society’s first-ever Abilities Officer, has had an article published in the QUT student magazine and is currently co-chairing a working group as a student representative developing a Disability Action Plan for QUT.
Her determination and resilience in the face of so many challenges is nothing short of inspiring. We asked her what resilience meant and she replied;
“Resilience to me means not giving up. Even when the odds are against you, you keep going and you keep fighting. We only realise how strong we are when we have to pick ourselves back up again.
Despite her own achievements, Cassandra says she is still most inspired by her peers. “They are achieving such great things in their own individual circumstances. Seeing them doing their thing inspires me to do my own thing. Having people my age that are able to lift each other up and support each other is so valuable.”
As a QUT Faculty of Law Founders’ Scholarship recipient, Cassandra has received not only financial assistance, but various mentoring opportunities as well. “I’ve had breakfast with judges, barristers and solicitors at the Inns of Court, law firms, and I’ve had regular meetings with the Dean. My scholarship has led to a lot of other opportunities that I would not have experienced otherwise. I have a community in the law faculty now and a professional network in the broader legal community”.
The scholarship is funded by donations from QUT staff, QUT Law Alumni and members of the legal community, with the goal of assisting law students facing financial or personal hardships.
"Receiving the scholarship was such a weight off my shoulders and an incredible motivation. It allowed me to continue my studies and made me feel as though people believed in me and were supporting me".
“I am incredibly lucky and grateful to everyone who supports this program. By supporting students that otherwise might not be able to study, you are giving them a chance to go on and change the world and achieve great things. Thanks to these people that have come together, I have been able to get a legal education I wouldn’t have had access to otherwise,” she says.
What does Cassandra want to do after she graduates?
“Unfortunately I’m finding that the career in law I had dreamed of is not compatible with the needs of my disability. I’m planning on becoming a secondary teacher in legal studies so I can still use my degree. It’s very disappointing that I won’t practise law but I hope I can inspire some high school students to study law.”
We asked her what advice she would give her younger self.
“Take nothing for granted. Ever. Your life can be flipped upside down in a second. Enjoy every single moment, no matter how small. Nothing is more important than your health. Do what makes your heart happy.”
Since its inception in 1997 the QUT Faculty of Law Founders' Scholarship Fund has provided support for over 80 Law students, helping them to realise their potential and make a difference in their communities. If you would like to find out more about the QUT Faculty of Law Founders’ scholarship, visit the website.
If you are interested in becoming a donor, contact Anna Whyte, QUT Faculty of Law Business Development Manager, at email@example.com