Hairdresser turned lawyer: Indigenous mum graduates CQUni
It was while working as a hairdresser on Rockhampton's CQUniversity campus that Heidi Lawson first got the idea to study a law degree.
"It was great to watch families grow and be a part of that first haircut before kindy, right through to styling their hair for formal, watching them apply for university and styling beautiful hair designs for wedding days," she said.
"Then after a few years of running my business, I became more involved with my mob (Jiman - also spelt Iman, Yiman) as a Native Title Applicant - our land is over the surrounding Tarroom and Wondoan areas - negotiating mining agreements and cultural heritage agreements.
"This work involved a lot of legal work which I became passionate about pursuing in order to have a better understanding of the legal side to better negotiate for my mob."
Inspired by clients including Lawson Smith, Wayne Jones, Jo Kehoe and the late Robert Fisher, Ms Lawson enrolled in the then new degree Bachelor of Laws from which she proudly graduated this week.
She expressed her gratitude to many of CQUniversity's staff in helping her negotiate work and study while continuing to work with her mob.
"Donna Smith helped me fill out my application (and) Professor Bronwyn Fredericks (Aunty) contributed to cementing in my mind that a law degree is what I want to study and look at future career options in that area," Ms Lawson said.
"Matthew Heelan was assigned as my learning advisor; this was the support I needed throughout my law degree. I was not worried to say "I don't understand" or ask "can you explain it in a different context?"
"I have had the best learning advisor, who was also understanding of my cultural background, the work I was doing with my mob and has given me some great learning tools that I will take with into my next phase of work.
"Some lecturers in particular, Manjo Oyson and A/Prof Christopher Walsh have structured their programs so well for CQUni students in developing their public speaking and communication skills when speaking on legal issues."
Ms Lawson, who moved to Brisbane due to her husband's job, is a full-time mum who continues to cut hair "when I can".
Her future goals include finding work in either criminal or Native Title law, doing a masters degree, and taking her daughter on country with family.
"During my degree, my mob was successful in receiving their Native Title Determination from the Federal Court, one of the oldest claims," she said.
"This was a great day for our mob as it all started when my Grandfather John Lawson and Uncle Fred Tull were young."