Joycelyn Tang is a girl who confesses to ‘wearing passion on her sleeve’. Deeply aware of the growing gulf between poverty and privilege, Tang’s love of humanity has been a steadfast influence on the direction of her law career.
As a sixteen year old, Tang volunteered at a school in Nepal, and her experiences there proved to be a key turning point in her future career as a lawyer.
“Seeing poverty made me acutely aware of my privilege and fostered my interest in social, legal and policy issues on the world stage. Since then, I’ve known that my love for law and wherever that takes me in my career will always be fulfilling if I get value out of giving back, and using my skills to create opportunities for others, rather than wealth and status.”
However, her career path was not exactly as she expected. Despite winning several awards while at Curtin including the John E Sproule Prize for the Best Student in Consumer Law and Policy, and The Piddington Society Prize for the Best Student in Professional Responsibility, Tang missed out on a graduate position she really wanted.
“At the time, it was quite upsetting and really made me question my abilities and re-evaluate my career path. However, from that ‘failure’, I’ve learned more about myself than from any ‘success’ that I’ve had,” she says.
“It taught me to be more resilient and made me determined to work even harder. It also gave me more perspective – it’s so easy to put a lot of pressure on yourself to achieve certain things at certain times; it can be stressful.
“In hindsight, everything happens for a reason, and just because one door closes, doesn’t mean another door won’t open or you will not find another path to get to the same destination.”
Her tenacity has paid off in droves. Now, the high-flying Curtin law graduate has been listed in the Australian Financial Review as one of the top 100 future leaders in Australia and landed a job as a Research Associate at the Supreme Court of Western Australia.
Tang has found that many of the skills she learned at Curtin are transferable to the workplace.
“Researching legal issues is a skill we constantly develop during the degree. I was also a student editor for the Curtin Law and Taxation Review, which involved writing and editing articles and case notes. This improved my writing skills and attention to detail.”
Tang also points to her work experience in the John Curtin Law Clinic, which is run by Curtin Law School.
“We provided pro-bono advice to small businesses. We got to interview clients by ourselves and take carriage of matters from start to finish – which are things I didn’t get to experience in many clerkships.”
“By developing these practical skills in a pro-bono setting, we were able to help those in need – a great reminder of the privileges which come with the study of law and why we do what we do.”
Tang initially chose to study the Bachelor of Laws at Curtin due to the shorter duration of the degree compared with the pathway offered by other universities, and once she began her studies, soon became actively involved in many of the University’s extracurricular activities.
In her first year, Tang started Amnesty Curtin University, a club dedicated to raising awareness of human rights within the community that has continued to grow.
Later, she mentored students through the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience program and helped organise an event for Opportunity International, raising $1,600 through the John Curtin Leadership Academy – a program that develops future leaders with community values and connects them to not-for-profit organisations.
In her final year, Tang was one of Curtin’s delegates to the UN University Scholars Leadership Symposium in Thailand, attended by more than 1,000 representatives from different parts of the world. The symposium explored global issues concerning the environment, equality and poverty in the context of the UN’s sustainable development goals.
“Being able to talk with so many passionate and like-minded young people doing incredible things was one of my favourite parts of the symposium. Hearing their stories gave me perspective on my own experiences, as well as hope that the changes that need to happen can, and will be a part of our future,” she explains.
With a clear ability to empathise with people of different ages and cultures, and a down-to earth attitude that shines through her work, Tang looks set to meet her future goals of admission to the legal profession and inspiring others.
“My greatest life achievement to date is just being happy. I feel so grateful to be surrounded by the people I love – it’s them who give me the most meaning in life, beyond any award or accolade I have received.”