Law graduate stays step ahead with job before degree | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Law graduate stays step ahead with job before degree

A determined student who completed a University of the Sunshine Coast course before graduating from high school has gained a coveted job with the Supreme Court – before graduating with her law degree.

Jahna Cafe, 21, started work in January as a judge’s associate for Justice Paul Freeburn of the Supreme Court of Queensland in Brisbane.

“I am thoroughly enjoying this position, particularly the fast pace and the exposure to advocacy in practice on a daily basis,” she said.

“The normal court time is 10am. I can be sitting in on criminal sentences or trials or involved in civil applications, hearings or trials. In criminal trials, I arraign defendants, empanel juries or formally accept verdicts.

“It has been eye-opening to learn about the large number of people who are self-represented within the court system. This highlights the importance of legal practitioners engaging in pro-bono work and is something I am inspired to do after the conclusion of my associateship.

“I am also in the process of applying to the Supreme Court to become admitted as a lawyer at a ceremony in June.”

Miss Cafe was offered the job last year, in her fourth and final year of a UniSC Bachelor of Laws (Honours).

When she crossed the stage at last month’s ceremony at Sippy Downs to officially receive her degree, she was awarded a University Commendation for her grade point average of 6.52 out of 7.

She has stayed a step ahead in her education and career pathway since she enrolled in UniSC’s Headstart program for high school students in 2017.

Miss Cafe completed the Introduction to Journalism course while studying Year 11 at Mountain Creek State High School.

“I loved legal studies at school. It combined my two best subjects of English and Drama,” she said.

“As soon as I commenced my Bachelor of Laws, I knew I made the right career choice. I instantly fell in love with the law and the way it can be used as a vehicle to drive social change.

“Studying at UniSC allowed me to build professional relationships with the law faculty that have endured past graduation. This has put me one step ahead in building my network as a lot of UniSC’s law teaching staff are local practitioners on the Sunshine Coast.” 

Miss Cafe also worked in legal support roles at several law firms during her studies, specialising in personal injury law.

“The law can impact people's lives in a huge way. Advocating on behalf of those most vulnerable in our community is a privilege and something I am excited to do in my career,” she said.

For her Honours research, she examined the legal barriers facing migrants who have been displaced by climate change.

“My thesis was, ‘Those who do not acknowledge history are doomed to repeat it: moving towards migration with dignity in Australia'.

“It looked at the sociological challenges associated with climate migration and argued that unless we look back to the neo-colonial attitudes that underpinned the Australia-Pacific Islands relationship, these themes are doomed to be repeated into contemporary policy.”

Miss Cafe, who received a Graduate Women Queensland bursary in 2022, was recently announced as a recipient of a Una Prentice Award for her academic achievements at UniSC last year. The award is presented by the Women Lawyers Association of Queensland.

Her career goal is to become a barrister.

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