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A case for support

Griffith student, Melissa Bansraj’s, law and political science degree, future career plans and volunteer work boils down to one motivation―an innate desire to help others. Whether it’s at home, on campus or in the courtroom she wants to make a difference.

Melissa’s pathway to becoming a lawyer began in high school when she saw the potential to do advocacy work through the criminal justice system. She later got a taste of how that translates on the ground through work experience at a local federal electorate office in Logan.

“I was only in high school at the time but saw constituents come in with questions about local issues or needing help with other services. I liked how laws and legislation were used to help people and wanted to do something similar,” she said.

Ruling out her other career choice, which was to become a surgeon, Melissa started her Bachelor of Laws (Honours)/Bachelor of Government and International Relations four years ago and hasn’t looked back.

She was the first person in her family to attend university and her parents, although very proud of their daughter, felt they were inexperienced and unprepared to help Melissa manage her degree and the costs.  A Students’ Future Fund scholarship proved life-changing, helping Melissa to stay motivated despite the challenges.

“I was told about my scholarship at the same time my Dad was admitted to hospital. While it was a difficult time for me and my family, this scholarship provided hope and will help lighten the financial burden on my ill parents,” she said.

“My mother has a severe disability and my father has been suffering from various health problems. A lot of my time is spent looking after my parents, both in and out of hospitals, which poses a challenge for me as I do not get much time to study.”

Melissa has sometimes struggled with the demands on her plate and the financial pressures of being a student, while caring for her parents at home.

“At times it has been hard to keep myself motivated―to keep studying and keep my head in the game. Sometimes I have felt like giving up but then I remind myself that this is what I want to do, so I pick myself up and keep going. I am incredibly grateful to have people around to support me,” she said.

Day-to-day costs like transport to university and textbooks are some of the many hurdles Melissa has to navigate.

“I rely heavily on public transport as it is quite expensive to register a car, pay for a parking permit and fill the car with petrol.”

A return trip takes three hours and three buses, consuming precious time in an already full day.

“I currently do not buy textbooks as they are quite expensive and out of my price range. The scholarship will allow me to alleviate the stress and worries of purchasing these books.”

It also provides much-needed financial support, giving Melissa the opportunity to get involved in university life by volunteering for different activities, including a two-year stint on the Student Representative Council (SRC) as committee member, president and chairperson.

“The scholarship helped me realise that university is not just about studying. It’s about getting involved and making the most out of every opportunity. Griffith is remarkable in so many ways,” she said.

To supplement her income and gain invaluable courtroom experience, Melissa was working as a part-time law clerk in Brisbane, but the hours disappeared during the COVID-19 crisis.

“It has changed my life. I used to work one day a week at a law firm but now I'm unable to. The scholarship has allowed me to stay at home and reduced the burden of finding another job,” she said.

“I’m also worried about my parents during this difficult time because their immune systems are poor. My Dad is scared to go out even for essential hospital appointments.”

Taking on extra subjects throughout her degree, Melissa will be graduating a year earlier than her counterparts. She hopes to become a criminal defence lawyer, with the ultimate goal of becoming a barrister specialising in criminal law.

“I take great pride in helping others and I believe being a lawyer is the best way to do so,” she said.

Melissa is grateful for the help she has received from donors to support her career aspirations and hopes to one day support students like herself at Griffith.

“It has been amazing to hear that there are people out there willing to support students on their journey to get an education at Griffith. Words cannot describe how thankful I am,” she said.

“It’s important to help when someone needs it, especially if they cannot help themselves. I want to give back because it’s such an important part of being human. You only get one life and it’s important to do what you can to make sure everyone is living in a peaceful and happy world.”