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Law and writing a powerful combination for 25th anniversary scholar


Jessica Nelson
23 May 2019

When Alyssa Burness found out about the unique combined degree in law and creative writing at Southern Cross University, it was as though the stars had aligned.

The 17-year-old Gold Coaster is a recipient of the prestigious Southern Cross University 25th Anniversary Scholarship for outstanding commencing students.

The scholars, who are studying across Gold Coast, Lismore, Coffs Harbour campuses and online, were chosen based on their 2018 grade 12 results and a personal statement regarding their career ambitions and community contributions.

“It was during Year 12 at King’s Christian College in Reedy Creek that I knew I wanted to pursue a career in law, but I have always loved books and am an avid writer, which is something I didn’t want to leave behind while studying at university,” Alyssa said.

“When I saw Southern Cross Uni’s law and creative writing degree in a course guide, which can be completed in four years, I thought ‘this is it’. My dad, who’s my main supporter, couldn’t believe it either.”

Alyssa said while her childhood was fairly normal – she loved to learn, play with her sisters, read books and write stories - her high school years proved more difficult when her parents separated.

“Year 12 was a hard year for me personally, but I had promised myself I wanted to finish school so when I was still able to achieve an OP5 I was really relieved,” she said.

“In the last couple of years I’ve watched my parents go through family court, which made me realise I want to become a lawyer to help others navigate when they find themselves in a tough situation and provide legal protection for those who have been left to fend for themselves.

“I’ve always believed that words and language can change the world and that’s my goal: to change the world with the things I write, whether it be in a court room or somewhere else.”

As a community-minded teenager who has assisted at a retirement home and volunteered at church services for people with disabilities, Alyssa is grateful for the friendly community she has found since starting at Southern Cross University in March.

“I really like that my classes are small and that the tutors have made a real point of knowing my name and my classmates’ as well, who I’ve been getting to know more.”

Alyssa said her proudest moment was standing on stage at her Year 12 graduation.

“It’s only with my dad’s support that was able to make it. My dad is the person I’m closest to in the whole world. He’s not just my dad, but my friend as well, who helped me overcome so much,” she said.

“I look forward to standing on stage again in a few years’ time with a university degree in my hand. I’m so glad to have received the Southern Cross University 25th Anniversary Scholarship which has really helped cover some of the costs of studying.”

Direct applications for the Bachelor of Law and Creative Writing are now open at for study commencing in July 2019.