Meet our students: Senthorun Raj
19 January 2012
University of Sydney student Senthorun Raj's philosophy is to follow your passions and be open to opportunities.
By applying that approach at the University of Sydney he has already had both academic and professional success. Raj has won a prestigious University Medal, is head of a major non-government organisation and a senior policy adviser for another. He is now in the final year of completing his arts/law degree.
"I have been fortunate enough to realise some of my dreams while still at the University," says Raj.
When he started his degree Raj intended to study politics or political economy.
"However, I soon realised that studying gender and cultural studies would best address my passions: providing innovative ways to think about social justice and politics. I was also encouraged to pursue my academic and advocacy interests by very supportive mentors from the department."
As a result Raj did his thesis on the ways sexuality and persecution are understood in refugee law in Australia and how these decision-making processes could be improved.
"I was delighted to be awarded both the University Medal and the Australian Gay and Lesbian Archives Thesis Prize for my work.
"That achievement reflected a lot of hard work but weekly drinks in Manning Bar also had their place in making me think deeply. Wine, enthusiastic students and passionate conversations about gender studies were a welcome addition to my education every Friday afternoon!"
Raj's involvement with the Amnesty International Society at the University of Sydney is another important strand in his university experience.
"After becoming involved in local campaign activities at the University, I began work at Amnesty International Australia as a volunteer refugee caseworker. "
"I became involved in more advocacy related campaigns, including lobbying for a Human Rights Act for Australia. Combined with my academic background this experience led to my becoming a Senior Policy Advisor for the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby in NSW and NSW President of Amnesty International Australia.
In his role at the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, Raj was instrumental in the campaign to have NSW adoption legislation changed, in 2010, to allow same-sex couples to adopt.
Since then he has also been appointed to a ministerial advisory committee for NSW Minister for Education, Adrian Piccoli, reporting on 'Proud Schools', a pilot program to deal with homophobic bullying in schools.
"I am in the extremely fortunate position of being paid to do what I love," he says.
Once his finishes his degree Raj is planning to explore further international study or work opportunities in both cultural studies and human rights advocacy.
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