Genevieve Beirne
Genevieve Beirne
2 December 2009

Genevieve Beirne's graduation with her law degree at a University of Queensland ceremony on Tuesday, December 8, would have especially pleased her great great uncle, Thomas Charles Beirne (1860–1949).

In April 1935, Mr Beirne, the proprietor of a large Brisbane drapery (department) store in Fortitude Valley and Warden of the Council of the University (1928–1941), pledged £20,000 (the equivalent to about $3 million in today's money) to establish a functioning law school at UQ.

In gratitude, the then University Senate named the school in his honour and at the 2pm graduation ceremony on Tuesday, Genevieve will join 155 others from the TC Beirne School of Law in the UQ Centre at the St Lucia campus to receive her Bachelor of Laws (LLB).

Mr Beirne rose from being a scantily educated son of a farmer in Ireland to one of the first millionaires in Australian history after emigrating here in 1883–1884. Perhaps it was his patchy education that drove him to want to sponsor and influence the educational development of his new home, the state of Queensland, in particular its only university.

Philanthropists such as TC Beirne will be especially commemorated by the University in 2010 when it celebrates its Centenary. Genevieve's graduation ceremony is just two days shy of being exactly 100 years since The University of Queensland was established by the Queensland State Government in celebration of its Golden Jubilee on Proclamation Day.

At an inauguration ceremony at what is now Old Government House in George Street, Brisbane City, the then Governor of Queensland, Sir William MacGregor, gave assent to the University of Queensland Act 1909 on December 10, 1909.

Ms Beirne said she was delighted to have such a connection to the past and was especially proud to be the first Beirne from her branch of the family to graduate with a law degree from UQ – her great-grandfather Michael was brother to Thomas.

"The UQ law school is one of the oldest in Australia and has a wonderful reputation but there's also a great sense of innovation and looking to the future there. This combination is what attracted me to study there in the first place," she said.

Ms Beirne said she was excited about finishing six years at UQ – she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 2008 – and will take up a position as a graduate officer with the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra in the early new year.

Her parents John and Helen – both Bachelor of Arts graduates from UQ – as well as her brother David will be in the audience to see her receive her degree on Tuesday.

Ms Beirne's ceremony is the second of three ceremonies for the Faculty of Business, Economics and Law (BEL) held on the opening day of the University's main graduation period, which includes 18 ceremonies spread over six days and held at the St Lucia, Ipswich and Gatton campuses.

Encompassing almost 6500 graduands from across all seven UQ faculties, the graduation period finishes on Friday, December 18, this year.

Other highlights of the three Tuesday, December 8, ceremonies are:

• Rebecca Rowling, who will graduate with her Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws with First Class Honours at the 2pm ceremony. Ms Rowling has been selected for an internship with the Judges' Chambers of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), in The Hague, The Netherlands, from January to June 2010. Ms Rowling said she had been fortunate to receive funding from various sections of The University of Queensland to undertake her internship including the offices of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (International) and the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic); the Faculty of Business, Economics and Law; and Alumni Friends of the University of Queensland Inc. Media: 3247 5430 or 0413 194 423.

• two students who took part in the Business, Economics and Law Faculty's inaugural Internship Program will graduate at the 11am ceremony. Master of Business graduate Kael O'Sullivan completed a two-month internship with Snellman Tom Accountants and Financial Planners while Anna Martins, also graduating with a Master of Business, completed an internship with Volleyball Australia Queensland. Mr O'Sullivan said the internship had helped him to receive a more "well-rounded" education experience. He said he had felt included and appreciated by his employer which had also allowed him flexible hours especially around examination periods. Ms Martins, an international student from Brazil, said her internship had given her valuable experience in sporting event management. She had previously only had experience in organising corporate events or occasions such as weddings, she said. Ms Martins said she had come to look forward to her one day a week with Volleyball Queensland from May until November this year. The Internship Program, designed to give students practical, hands-on experience in the workforce before they finished uni, has had an excellent start with approximately 100 students placed with 35 organisations in the space of a few months. Media: Mr O'Sullivan on 0405 156 676, Ms Martins on 0450 628 838 or Sam Ferguson at the BEL Faculty on 3365 6662.

• Nicquel Rhoden, who will receive her Bachelor of Tourism degree at the 11am ceremony. Nicquel recently credited her studies with giving her a distinct advantage over other candidates after she won New Zealand's "dream job" competition. Ms Rhoden beat more than 300 others to win the competition, run by a New Zealand travel company. She will spend three months in New Zealand from February, 2010, blogging her experiences to promote the country. Media: Ms Rhoden on 0439 773 676.

• Tony Hayes, Deputy Chief Executive, Queensland Public Service Commission, who will act as guest speaker at the 11am ceremony.

• High Court Justice Susan Kiefel, who will receive a Doctorate of Laws honoris causa at the 2pm ceremony on Tuesday, December 8. She will also be the guest speaker at this ceremony.

Justice Kiefel, Queensland's first female Queen's Counsel and Australia's third female High Court judge, did not take a conventional road to reaching the highest court in the land.

Born in Cairns in 1954, she left high school at the end of year 10. In 1971, she completed secretarial training at Kangaroo Point Technical College on a scholarship, and eventually began work as a secretary for three barristers Fitzgerald, Moynihan and Mack – a position which was to change the course of her life because of the encouragement she received from the barristers she worked for.

She is just the third female High Court Justice and the 46th overall with her appointment alongside incumbent The Honourable Justice Susan Crennan marking the first time two women have sat concurrently on the High Court bench.

• Banker and business woman Dr Helen Nugent AO, who will receive a Doctorate of Business honoris causa at the 6pm ceremony.

She is currently a non-executive director of Macquarie Group and Macquarie Bank Limited, Origin Energy and Freehills. She is Chair of Macquarie's Remuneration Committee and Chairman of Origin Energy's Audit Committee. She is also Chairman of Funds SA and Swiss Re (Life and Health) Australia Limited.

Dr Nugent is an inspiration to younger people, especially women, seeking to ascend the corporate ladder, a member of Chief Executive Women and has been actively involved in mentoring a large number of women.

Media: Shirley Glaister (3365 1931 or 0438 129 083).

To watch live broadcasts of this year's ceremonies, visit: (Windows Media Player)