Piadora wearing a graduation gown and cap in the Quadrangle with her mother, smiling.

Leading with lived experience

24 October 2022

Enacting change through the power of the law

A scholarship and early offer gave Piadora Rahme the opportunity to rise above her circumstances and pursue her dream to join the judiciary.

An only child raised by a single mother who migrated to Australia from Lebanon for better opportunities, Piadora's early life started with some sacrifice. Now she’s getting ready to graduate from the second half of her Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Laws degree, with her sights set on joining the judiciary.

Growing up in Mt Druitt without a family support network, as a child Piadora and her mother relied heavily on the generosity of strangers to watch over her while her mother worked long hours to make ends meet.

Piadora wearing a pink dress and a black graduation cloak and cap, standing side by side with her mother, smiling.

Piadora with her mother.

Through it all, Piadora’s mother was her biggest support, placing great emphasis on her schooling and guiding her towards valuing her education.

“She was the one who led me on the path of truly valuing and enjoying my education,” Piadora recalls. “Some of my fondest memories are sitting at the dining room table together and going through math homework and spelling, or reading a new book together every week. It was the simplest of things, but they really add up to where I ended up today.”

Together, they also navigated family court and a custody battle while Piadora’s mother went through a challenging divorce. It was there, as she witnessed the inner workings of the justice system, that Piadora knew she wanted to help future families weathering the same storms.

“From this, I knew that I wanted to undertake a profession which allowed me to understand the legal system so that less people felt the strain and difficulty associated with understanding the law," she said.

At the time, Piadora split her attention between debating, her studies and working casually to support herself. She was academically minded, and determined to get the marks that would enable her pursue law or medicine and create a better future for her and her mother.

It was a relief when her hard work paid off - Piadora was awareded a HSC Distingusihed Achiever Award for achieving the top band in all of her subjects. Still, she was nervous about earning her place in the highly competitive fields of law or medicine.

I knew that I wanted to undertake a profession which allowed me to understand the legal system, so that less people felt the strain and difficulty associated with understanding the law.
Piadora Rahme

It wasn’t until Piadora came across the University of Sydney’s E12 Scheme that she started to believe she was in with a chance. Her pathway towards the University of Sydney was further solidified when she discovered the double degree Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Laws, which married her two passions perfectly.

Being awarded an E12 offer and scholarship meant Piadora didn’t have to sacrifice campus life to keep herself afloat. “Knowing that I didn't have to work, that I could kind of have a failsafe, meant every so often I was able to partake in student committees and student activities,” she said. “I didn’t have to pick between maintaining an income or being involved at the University – I could do both.”

Having financial support also meant Piadora could afford to purchase textbooks, pay for her travel fares between home and campus, and spend more time investing in her future.

Today, alongside excelling in her studies as a Dalyell Scholar, Piadora is an executive member of the University of Sydney STEM Law Society, she volunteers as a debating coach and teaches Arabic to Kindergarten students at her local church.

She still works, but by choice, as a legal intern at the University's Office of General Counsel, and as a paralegal at the Australian Medical Association.

Piadora shaking hands with John Bateman and Michael Battersby while smiling and holding an award,

Piadora receiving the Bateman Battersby 2018 Bursary, presented by John Bateman and Michael Battersby.

Piadora is thankful to those who have given generously to student equity scholarships in the past. “I am deeply humbled and honoured to have been the recipient of their generosity, because it opened a door for me. It's often difficult to see or open that door of opportunities, but they gave me the key.”

Piadora’s next chapter will begin with her newly appointed clerkship, but her dreams are much bigger. The young leader hopes to become a part of the judiciary, to make real-world change for her generation. She hopes her story will inspire others to support the educational journeys of people just like her.

“Education is a true equaliser and one of the few things that cannot be taken away from anyone once they’ve attained it,” she says. “Potential donors should know that they will be changing someone’s life by supporting and empowering students less privileged to achieve their dreams.”

It's often difficult to see or open that door of opportunities, but they gave me the key.
Piadora Rahme

When leadership is for all of us, it is leadership for good.

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