Student Spotlight: Shona O’Brien

Student Spotlight: Shona O’Brien

We chat to Shona O’Brien who generously shares her experiences within the education system, overcoming anxiety and navigating internships and professional environments on her journey to become a lawyer.

This article was originally published by Ngarara Willim. You can view the full article here.

Shona is a proud Torres Strait Islander woman who was raised on Wurundjeri Country. She is studying a Bachelor of Laws at RMIT University and plans to graduate at the end of 2023. Shona has demonstrated a deep passion and determination to become a lawyer.

"My family has a broad relationship with the law from having Chief Magistrates in my family to having members incarcerated, I always hoped that I would be on the right side of the law. I started my Bachelor of Laws when I was in year 12 by completing an accelerate program at Deakin University, which acted as the catalyst which inspired me to continue my journey to become a lawyer."

"Unfortunately, I did not get the ATAR required to get back into law school when I completed year 12, but nonetheless I was determined to succeed. I started the Bachelor of Legal Dispute Studies in 2020 at RMIT, [and then the university] introduced a Bachelor of Laws when I was in my second semester of the Bachelor of Legal Dispute Studies."

Shona learned about Career Trackers, which aims to help Indigenous students to complete university and to prepare Indigenous students for the workforce by providing them with internship opportunities. Limited in internship opportunities due to the pandemic, Shona completed internships with the Department of Education and Training.

Through Career Trackers, Shona was able to have frank and honest conversations about her desire for law and corporate experience, which prompted a switch in Advisors over to Will.

“Will fought for me to get corporate experience which led to me obtaining an internship at Pitcher Partners. Pitcher Partners in a national accounting firm but their professional services extend beyond accounting. I interviewed for a position within the consulting team which was a fun experience. It was not what I was expecting but I learnt that their hiring methodology is based off the idea that everything they do in consulting you can learn, but you must be able to work in team environments and be able to get along with your work team.”

RMIT Student Shona O'Brien

Following her internship with Pitcher Partners Shona was offered a part-time role as a Supporting Analyst, which she happily accepted. 

Reflecting on the impact Ngarara Willim has had so far, Shona explained “Growing up a pale Indigenous person was confronting because my Aboriginality is always questioned, until I pull out photos of my black Dad and Aunties. The Nagarara Willim orientation day I went to when I started university in 2020 was the first time I saw Indigenous people that looked like me and my brothers. Nagarara Willim is more than just an Indigenous centre that fills RIMT’s Reconciliation obligations; it is a place of belonging and support.”

“Without Nagarara Willim I would not be where I am now. Nagara have supported my studies by providing me with a tutor who has academically boosted my confidence and is a daily remainder of my growth. I was displaced from home when I was 16 and have put myself through school ever since. However, the scholarship Nagarara Willim supplied meant I can focus on my studies and not have to stress so much about my financial circumstances which has directly reduced my anxiety levels.”

“Nagarara Willim is in my corner when I have a bad day at uni, and provide a safe culturally appropriate space for Indigenous students like myself and hundreds of other students and lives up to its English translation of ‘gathering home’. Culture is incredibly important to me because there was along time where, I was scared to be who I am but the Advisors and friends I have made from being a student at Nagarara Willim has increased my confidence and given me a sense of belonging within mob.”

05 July 2022


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Acknowledgement of Country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.