World wildlife fosters inclusivity

03 March 2023

World Wildlife Day (Friday, 3 March) recognises and celebrates global wildlife protection efforts, but for CQUniversity Bachelor of Laws student Rebecca Markwell, a passion for animal protection also opened up a world of opportunity.

Rebecca recently participated in an international study ‘Wildlife Law and Protection in Vietnam’ as part of her LAWS12073 Legal Practicum unit, providing the third-year student with legal, cultural, and environmental insight into wildlife protection and illegal trafficking.

The tour involved a partnership with Education for Nature Vietnam (ENV) in which students integrated local knowledge from Australia and Vietnam to contribute to a wildlife protection project.

Rebecca, who is legally blind, believes everyone can have a role to play in wildlife conservation and highlighted how important it is that those involved in these efforts be as diverse as the world we aim to protect.

“While my love for animals and desire to learn more about animal law immediately piqued my interest, I was apprehensive about getting involved in an international tour,” she explained.

“Vietnam has a rich history and culture, but being in a new environment, where you don’t speak the native language or have your usual support systems in place, can be daunting.

“Being involved certainly pushed me outside my comfort zone, but I think it is our unique views, experiences, and backgrounds that combine to create the most sustainable and inclusive outcomes.

“It was wonderful to learn about a range of different wildlife-related legal problems and to be involved in thinking about solutions first-hand. Learning about social change efforts has helped prepare me to become a globally aware, socially engaged lawyer.”

Despite her initial concerns, Rebecca said the support she received from CQUniversity, her lecturers and peers contributed to a positive and straightforward travel experience.

“I really liked the challenge and the independence I gained by being away from my family in Bundaberg. I bonded quickly with everyone on the tour, and they became like a second family to me," she said.

“Not only has the experience broadened my horizons, but it has also opened new doors and partnership opportunities for a potential future career in animal law.

“For other students with accessibility concerns, I would highly recommend getting involved in a CQU study tour. If you find out who is leading the tour, have a chat with that academic and they will work with you to accommodate any additional requirements.”

Rebecca also acknowledged the efforts of CQU College of Law, Criminology and Justice lecturers Dr Alexandra McEwan and Dr Luke Price who coordinated the study tour. Drs McEwan and Price were successful in securing Australian Government New Colombo Plan Mobility Program funding.

Alongside nine fellow CQU law students, Rebecca received $3,000 to subsidise travel costs.

Dr Alexandra McEwan noted Rebecca’s inspirational impact and recognised the importance of inclusive educational opportunities for students.

“Alongside Rebecca's contribution to the tour activities, her participation meant that we all learnt a lot about how we can break down barriers for students who may have a disability and support their participation in international study tours,” Dr McEwan explained.

“She is a great example of how by working together, we can all contribute to conserving our planet's wildlife and build bridges between people from different backgrounds.”

The New Colombo Plan is a signature initiative of the Australian Government which aims to lift knowledge of the Indo-Pacific in Australia by supporting Australian undergraduates to study and undertake internships in the region.

The New Colombo Plan Mobility Program provides funding to Australian universities to support Australian undergraduate students’ participation in study, internships, mentorships, practicums and research in 40 host locations across the Indo-Pacific region.