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Where are they now? With Ash Thomas

The CIJ catches up with former RMIT Juris Doctor student Ash Thomas to find out what he's been up to since graduating.

When did you graduate, what have you been up to since then?

I graduated from the RMIT JD programme at the end of 2018. The first thing I did was flee the country. I went and hiked around Patagonia for a month, a great way to recover from three years of hard work. The next thing I did was move to Canberra for my grad job. I have been working as a graduate at Safe Work Australia since early January. I have been fortunate to work on a range of interesting projects already and there’s more to come!

Tell us a little bit about your career journey and why you decided to pursue a law degree?

I suppose my career journey started well before my JD did. I have had a varied career already, working as a baker and a bottle-shop manager before my degree and during my degree working for the not-for-profit organisation Victoria Law Foundation, and in paralegal roles at the Office of Public Prosecutions and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

I started my law degree because I wanted to have a career that would allow me to make a positive difference. I kept that in mind throughout my degree, and sought opportunities volunteering with two exceptional community legal centres – Flemington-Kensington Community Legal Centre and Mental Health Legal Centre. I had a goal of gaining as much practical experience as I could, with that in mind I grabbed every opportunity I could, including the study tour to New Zealand and the Clinical Legal Education subject, both through the Centre for Innovative Justice.

If you had one piece of advice to give law students, what would that be?

If I could offer advice to any RMIT law students, it would be to take all the opportunities available to you. RMIT students are lucky to have many practical opportunities as well as practical assessments but it is also good to be proactive and seek experience elsewhere.

My practical experience has led me to my current position at Safe Work Australia. As a grad at Safe Work Australia, I am fortunate to be doing meaningful work using the skills and experience I gained during my JD at RMIT. The work I am doing now will have a positive impact on Australian workers and employers, exactly what I wanted when I applied for the JD at RMIT many years ago.

How well did the RMIT JD prepare you for your career?

Very well! The practical experiences and practical assessments helped prepare me for the realities of my career. Aside from that, having access to excellent academic staff and studying alongside students who worked in diverse areas was invaluable.

Is there anything that surprised you about working in the legal sector?

I have been consistently surprised by the amount of passion there is among people working in the legal sector. Through my volunteering positions as well as my paid work I’ve been surrounded by passionate people who genuinely want to have a positive impact on the world. It’s a very different experience to what I had imagined before I studied law.

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