Dane Luo is the 2023 recipient of the Peter Cameron Sydney Oxford Scholarship. Later this year, Dane will be heading to the UK to undertake the Bachelor of Civil Law (BCL) at the University of Oxford.
The BCL is a world-renowned taught graduate course in law, designed to serve outstanding law students from common law backgrounds. Each year, the Peter Cameron Sydney Oxford Scholarship provides $60,000 to a Sydney Law student to undertake the BCL.
Dane was unanimously chosen by the selection panel for his outstanding academic achievements, leadership and community service.
Dane’s academic accomplishments include achieving First Class Honours in both his Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws degrees. He was the recipient of the Walter Reid Memorial Prize, Gustav and Emma Bondy Postgraduate Prize and John George Dalley Prize No 1A, as well as being placed on the Dean’s List of Excellence for Academic Performance.
While managing the demands of studying law, Dane held leadership positions in the University of Sydney Union, Students’ Representative Council and Sydney University Law Society. He has worked in the US House of Representatives, Crown Solicitor’s Office and Herbert Smith Freehills.
Last year, his achievements were recognised nationally with the award of Law Student of the Year.
Since graduating, Dane has been the Associate to the Chief Judge in Equity, Justice Hammerschlag, in the NSW Supreme Court. Dane currently volunteers as the Secretary of the Public Law and Government Sub-committee in NSW Young Lawyers and as a mentor for students.
We spoke to Dane about his time at Sydney Law School and his future plans.
Why did you choose the Law School to study your Bachelor of Laws?
I knew throughout high school that I wanted to study law or politics. I had read about Sydney Law alumni who have made their mark on the law as judges, academics, lawyers and politicians. I had also heard that Sydney gives you the opportunity to learn from leading academics in the field.
I was fortunate to be accepted into the University of Sydney under the Broadway scheme and as an E12 student (now MySydney). I was generously supported by the Inspired by Business Scholarship. I cannot overstate the incredible support that these programs gave me. Without it, I would not have been able to study at Sydney.
Needless to say, I have not looked back. The amazing academics at the Law School have supported my personal development, taught me a wide range of perspectives and challenged me to critically evaluate both what the law is and what the law should be.
What was the highlight of your studies here?
Doing my Honours thesis was a highlight! Most of a law degree is coursework and there were very few opportunities to research and delve deeper into an area that I was interested in. Honours changed that – I could design my own project, benefit from fantastic supervision from an expert academic and research independently to produce a final work that is about to be published. I did my thesis on a niche question – whether the executive power to prorogue the Parliament in Australia is subject to judicially reviewable limits. This intersected with my interests in both constitutional and administrative law. I was quite chuffed to learn that my thesis received a High Distinction.
What does winning this scholarship mean to you?
I am incredibly honoured and humbled to be awarded the Peter Cameron Sydney Oxford Scholarship! It feels like a dream come true because without the generous support it provides, I would not be able to go.
But I am mindful that Oxford, scholarships and the study of law may be seen as inaccessible to some. That was how I saw it not too long ago. As a Chinese-Australian from a family with financial hardship, I started primary school not knowing a word of English. I sold over 200 chocolate boxes in high school so that I could go on excursions and band tours and I have been rejected for an endless list of roles and opportunities.
This scholarship will go a very long way for me and my family, but I hope it might also inspire others with a disadvantaged background to keep going and to know that the doors are opening.
I am thankful to the members of the selection committee. It was an honour to be interviewed by the Governor of New South Wales, the Dean and Associate Dean and a representative of the Cameron family and I am anxious to honour the memory of the late Peter Cameron.
What are your future plans?
The offer to study at Oxford and this scholarship has given me a deep sense of responsibility to make the world a better place. After my postgraduate studies, I want to support First Nations treaty-making, be an advocate for people with a disability, work to address disparities in childhood outcomes and do everything I can to push every door wide open.
I hope to pursue a career that involves practising law as an advocate and teaching and researching as an academic. I am most interested in the fields of public law, particularly on how to best preserve civil liberties.
What advice would you give to those looking to pursue a career in law?
If anyone is interested in studying law, it is worth giving it a go! It can be a rewarding experience – one that challenges you to rethink what you know.
For those currently studying law, I understand that it can be challenging and the competitiveness of law school and the profession can, in some cases, be intense. Try to engage seriously with the material and appreciate how the law seeks to balance multiple competing interests. Be brave to critique it and think about how it can be done better.
For those considering study at Oxford, what has become clear to me is that the biggest barrier for Sydney Law students is not necessarily its extremely competitive entry process but the fees and living costs that come with the degree. Give the application process a go! And make sure you leave plenty of time to apply for scholarships, grants and other programs to support your studies.