FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
A Unique Crowd-Funding Campaign: Community Supports Former Homeless Youth and Single Mother to Move to Melbourne to Complete her PhD
By Keeya-Lee Ayre
December 15, 2014
Perth, WA – A unique crowd-funding appeal is underway online to support a Perth-based refugee lawyer and single mother, who was homeless in her youth, to move to Melbourne where she has been accepted to study towards her PhD in law.
About the Campaign
My colleague and friend, Bernice Carrick, is one of the most intelligent, selfless, passionate and humble people I have ever met. And she needs our help.
Bernice is a single mother who works as a lawyer in Perth, assisting asylum seekers and refugees. But before I tell you about where she is now, let me go back a while to tell you more about Bernice's journey, and why she's so incredible.
When she was young and growing up in Sydney, Bernice became homeless and was forced to live in a squat. She was also involved in a self-destructive subculture that practiced self-mutilation. Bernice still bears that scars from that today. She fell pregnant and gave birth to her son when she was 20.
You would never know any of that about her if you met her. After having her son, Bernice completely turned her life around. She set a strong example for her son, raising him alone. While working full time in retail shops Bernice decided to do her first degree, a Bachelor of Arts, online from Macquarie through Open Universities. She completed this degree successfully, majoring in Philosophy.
She then applied for and was admitted to Murdoch University's Bachelor of Laws in Perth. During this time, she worked in a post office to support herself and her son. She graduated with First Class Honours and then completed the Graduate Certificate in Migration Law and Practice and became a Registered Migration Agent so that she could assist refugees. She later completed all of the requirements to become a lawyer and was admitted to the Supreme Court of Western Australia as a solicitor. In 2012 she was accepted into Melbourne Law School's prestigious Master of Laws. She put herself into debt to finance the study, using all of her paid holiday leave from work (here in Perth) to go over to Melbourne to study intensive units. Bearing in mind that while completing this full time study load, she also works tirelessly advocating for the rights of refugees and asylum seekers in Australia.
A few days ago, Bernice got the incredible news that she was accepted to study towards her PhD at Melbourne Law School. Melbourne is the 5th ranked law school in the entire world (for comparison, Stanford sits at #9) and 1st in Australia. Her research in Melbourne will focus on nationality-based discrimination protections in Australia, Canada and New Zealand. At a time when 232 million people worldwide live outside of their country of nationality, yet governments are increasingly willing to limit equality rights to citizens, it is work with important practical implications.
Contrary to any mis-held popular beliefs, as a lawyer at a community legal centre (giving free advice) Bernice is NOT well paid. She does her job because of her belief in social justice, not for the money. If Bernice went into a commercial practice or worked for a private firm, she would be doing very different work (not necessarily for good people...) but have a lot more money. Instead she chooses to work helping refugees so that she can use her incredible mind and legal knowledge to help some of the most vulnerable people in our society. And because of that, she doesn't have the funds to make the move to Melbourne.
Think of it this way: I am only 22, so if I got into the postgrad research program at Australia's most prestigious Law School, I could easily pack up and move for that opportunity. I don't have children or a mortgage. Our society in many ways privileges the education of the young and the unattached. Bernice doesn't have the luxury of just leaving Perth at a whim - she has a teenage son, a mortgage, debts and countless bills to pay. In order to make the move, a lot of things need to be financed.
Bernice's strength demonstrates to me that she deserves this more than anyone because she's worked so hard to get to where she is. Nobody deserves to go to the University of Melbourne and do their PhD in law than her. We need to help her! Visit the campaign link to see more details of the support Bernice needs.
A unique crowd-funding to support a Perth-based refugee lawyer and single mother, who was homeless in her youth, to move to Melbourne where she has been accepted to study towards her PhD in law.