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Sydney Law School student wins 2016 Governor-General’s Prize

2 November 2016
Our student wins prestigious prize

The Governor-General's Prize, which has the reputation as Australia's most prestigious essay competition, required students to write on different topics concerning the Australian Constitution in times of war.

Tim Smartt

Congratulations to final year Juris Doctor student Timothy Smartt on being awarded joint winner of the 2016 Governor-General's Prize.

The Governor-General's Prize, which has the reputation as Australia's most prestigious essay competition, required students to write on different topics concerning the Australian Constitution in times of war — a theme chosen to mark the centenary of the First World War.

The judging panel met at the High Court in Sydney on Monday to interview the six finalists. The panel, comprising of High Court Justice Stephen Gageler, Australian War Memorial Director Dr Brendan Nelson, ANU Professor Fiona Wheeler and Baker & McKenzie partner George Harris, then announced the George Winterton Cup for equal first place was to be awarded to Timothy Smartt and Rose Mackie from University of Tasmania.

"It was truly an incredible experience to sit in a High Court justice's chambers and be interviewed about something I had written on constitutional law by four amazing panelists. I'll never forget it," said Timothy Smartt.

Timothy's essay argued that the Australian Delegation at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 punched above its weight in terms of what it achieved, given Australia's constitutional status prior to the First World War. He became fascinated by the difficulty of identifying whether there has been a moment when Australia acquired independence.

In recent years, the Governor-General's Prize has covered topics ranging from constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta and our constitutional heritage. This year's focus, on the Constitution in times of war, is of particular significance. As Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove observed, "By learning about the wartime experience of the Constitution, we as a nation come closer to understanding an important aspect of Australia's experience in World War One, what sprang from that, what it meant to Australia then, and all it means to us today."