AS A relatively recent graduate, Natasha Simonsen has achieved more in her short legal career than most lawyers would in a lifetime, but she will now go one step further after winning the 2009 NSW Rhodes Scholarship.
The Allens Arthur Robinson lawyer, who is currently working for the United Nations in Pakistan, will now join the ranks of former Rhodes scholars Malcolm Turnbull, Geoffrey Robertson, Kim Beazley and Bob Hawke.
In 2009 she will move to Oxford University to study a Bachelor of Civil Law and Master of Philosophy. Upon being notified of the scholarship, she said she would use the opportunity to continue her work in human rights. “I want to get some very practical legal experience in private practice before moving into social policy work, particularly in the area of human rights,” she said.
But before then, Simonsen is determined to continue her work in Pakistan for children and women on behalf of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees. She has taken on this work through a seven-month break from her work in private practice at Allens, with the full support of the firm.
Aside from her international work, Simonsen has furthered her commitment to the community by volunteering for three years at a Sydney homeless shelter for drug addicted and mentally ill people, and was responsible for introducing a program to help disadvantaged children improve their literacy skills, while working as a clerk at Allens.
Simonsen will join a league of top academics at Oxford, and her achievements to date should ensure they are in good company. At Sydney University, Simonsen won the Walter Reid Memorial Scholarship for Academic Achievement two years in a row, and was named World Champion at the 2007 Phillip C Jessup International Law Moot in Washington DC. She completed her HSC at Barker College in Sydney in 2002 where she achieved a UAI of 100.
Jim Dwyer, chairman of the charity committee and litigation partner at Allens, said her contribution to charity work at the firm was a demonstration to her commitment to helping those less fortunate in the community. “The partners and staff of the firm extend our warm congratulations to Natasha on this scholarship, adding to her remarkable list of achievements,” he said.
“Natasha is a person of exceptional ability and a worthy recipient of the Rhodes Scholarship.”
Dwyer added that just weeks ago when Simonsen was in Sydney she gave a presentation to staff on her involvement with the Acid Survivors Foundation in Islamabad — an organisation dealing with acid attacks against women and children. The presentation, said Dwyer, highlighted the difficulties of pursing such causes in Pakistan, but again reiterated Simonsen’s commitment to human rights.
Two other participants shortlisted for the NSW Rhodes Scholarship, Nikolas Kirby and Shaun Lin Yow, will now go into the selection for the “Australia at Large Rhodes Scholarship”, to be announced in Canberra later this year.
Joanna Mascarenhas, another University of Sydney Graduate and last year’s Rhodes Scholarship winner, is currently undertaking a Master of Philosophy in Civil law at Oxford.