Curtin University second year double degree law and journalism student Rebecca Stacy has won the inaugural Australia’s Next Top Lawyer Essay-writing Competition, sponsored by Australian Accident Helpline.

Stacy, 21, was thrilled with the news that she had won the competition for her submission entitled, Religious freedom and parental rights: The most important development in Australian legal history, for which she was presented a trophy and a cheque for $5000 from Australian Accident Helpline managing director, Mr Liam Millner.

Mr Millner said articles were received from law students all over the country and that the work was of an exceptionally high standard.

“We were delighted with the quality content that we received from over 400 students throughout Australia,” Mr Millner said. “The judges had their work cut out deciding the winner from a series of articles that were both thought provoking and relevant. However, Rebecca’s article stood out due to a theme she chose that is very topical in the multicultural dynamic of today, as well as her fluent writing style that covered the legal aspects of her topic presented in a flowing narrative that was easy to understand.”

Ms Stacy said she had been inspired to write the article on the clash between cultural and legal dynamics in Australia as the subject had been a point of frequent discussion among her peers.

“It’s something we always see in the news, reflective of the changing multicultural world that we live in. But I realised that it was difficult for me to have an opinion about it, as I did not know what Australia’s legal position was in relation to women and children, and issues such as female circumcision and arranged child marriages. So, I decided to look into it and chose the topic as the focal point of my essay,” Ms Stacy said.

Her essay concluded that under Australian law, child welfare and women’s rights takes precedence over cultural traditions whereby families might want to pressurise female children in particular into practices deemed harmful to their wellbeing.

“My friends and fellow students all talk about this topic. We all agree that people should be free to raise children according to their cultural ways, but that the welfare of the person supersedes any cultural decrees,” she said.

Stacy, who lives in Trigg, WA, said she had decided to study law and journalism, as opposed to the more common choice of commerce-law, as media studies encouraged people to analyse and question law.

She said she hoped her award would give her future career impetus after she graduates.

“I would like to specialise in human rights, specifically focusing on women’s rights and child welfare, so from that perspective, winning this award was most encouraging,” she said.

Stacy was preparing to go on holiday to Japan for the end of year holidays and said the $5000 prize-money would prove to be very useful on her month-long adventure.