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UWA student Lawson O’Brien

Student Story: From Tom Price to UWA

19/07/2022 |

UWA student Lawson O’Brien didn’t have a typical start to uni life. Growing up in Tom Price, a small mining town in the Pilbara, Lawson admits to being a “big fish in a small pond”. At age 10, he moved less North to Geraldton and became a “medium fish” in a slightly bigger pond.

"Suddenly, I was playing sport against different kids every week, all my own age, as well as stopping at a traffic light on the way to school. My family grew tightly knit with the move."

Lawson O’Brien, UWA Bachelor of Commerce and Juris Doctor Direct Pathway student

When Lawson started High School, he found an interest in Literature and Politics which helped him make his choice to study a Bachelor of Commerce at UWA majoring in Human Resource Management and accepted a Direct Pathway offer into the Juris Doctor.

“After more exam study than I would like to admit to my peers, I finished with a decent ATAR and was exposed to the ocean of Perth and university.”

Lawson was unable to “join [his] mates” who moved straight from school to uni as the financial burden of moving to Perth was too much for his family at the time. However, Lawson made the most of his gap year, finding a job at his old High School doing camp organisation and career’s administration. This earnt him enough to buy a car and make the move to Perth, renting a house with a friend.

“Perth on the whole feels alien, but in a good way. I found that there are many more walks of life in WA than I thought and plenty of other people with similar values.”

Lawson was eager to take advantage of all the opportunities on offer when he moved to UWA, taking on student mentoring, tutoring year 10 maths, and coaching a Year 7/8 hockey team. He also joined a social hockey team and was pleasantly surprised with the volume of social sport teams in Perth which he said means “blokes can play Netball”.

Lawson’s hard work at university paid off and he was awarded the Brian T. Dolan Scholarship – a scholarship established by Brian Dolan to honour his friend and former partner James McClements, who came from rural WA, excelled as a student at UWA, and established and nurtured Resource Capital Funds. He wanted to pay it forward and give the same opportunity to more regional and rural students in WA.

"I can now afford to go on exchange, which was once a cost, prohibited opportunity as well as invest further in my education and buy textbooks rather than filling in blanks of lecture slides."

When he graduates, Lawson aspires to be a magistrate and be a respected voice in his community. There’s no doubt coming from a small town has influenced his community focussed goals either back in Tom Price or Geraldton or in his new home, Perth.

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