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Alumni Stories

GRADS 2022: Jo Washington-King

Jo Washington-King’s eight-year-old daughter Charlotte is “very proud of Mummy” – and she has every reason to be.

Jo graduated this week with a Juris Doctor from the University of Canberra’s Faculty of Business, Government and Law – a degree she studied while also working full-time as a Work Integrated Learning Coordinator at the Faculty of Arts and Design.

It was a course of study she began remotely while living in Perth, and after moving to Canberra and getting a job at UC, she commenced her studies in person.

“Studying while also being responsible for a family has been really tough,” she says.

“Sometimes I did feel like a bad parent. There were times I had to say to Charlotte ‘I can’t play with you right now’, or I’d have to bargain with her to let me study one weekend, just so we could do something together the following weekend.”

While completing her studies and working, Jo also had to balance getting Charlotte to extracurricular activities, managing home-schooling during COVID-19, and making sure she got to bed at a reasonable hour each night.

“A usual night routine for us was taking Charlotte to ride and feed her horse, giving her some dinner, putting her in the shower and then sending her to bed with a book saying ‘I’ve got to do my work now’ and then staying up late myself to get assignments finished,” Jo says.

“It’s been a big juggle, and it’s been hard. Luckily my husband also studies, so he understands exactly what it’s like and was a huge support along the way.”

Now that it’s all behind her, Jo is looking forward to being more present with her family and getting back to the things she loves – including horse-riding and dog sport judging.

She’s also looking forward to being able to spend entire days doing whatever she wants, rather than rushing away to study.

“When I was away at the coast over Christmas break, I could usually only go to the beach for the morning, and then I’d leave everyone there and head home to write my thesis,” she says.

That thesis, titled Is industrial manslaughter an appropriate remedy for patient harm, was prompted by a passion of Jo’s – changing legislation in the medical industry to ensure patients receive a fair and safe treatment.

It was a topic inspired by Jo’s own experiences following her mother’s breast cancer diagnosis.

“I’ve known a lot of people who have had really bad medical experiences, but in particular the way my mum’s breast cancer surgery was handled was really appalling,” she says.

“The surgeon who operated on her pretty much butchered her and refused to take responsibility. She had to have multiple follow-up surgeries with a different surgeon to get everything fixed.”

Jo is determined to keep on working for fairer laws in the space, and hopes to one day build a career in the industry.

That’s a way in the future though, as she has begun her Practical Legal Training – a requirement to work as a lawyer.

“I should hopefully be finished with my PLT by about October, but it’s a different kind of study to my Juris Doctor, and I’m enjoying the relative freedom that comes with it,” Jo says.

“I do want to go out there and use the skills that I have, and utilise my brain to its full potential.”

Words by Elly Mackay, photos by Maddi Green.

This March, the University of Canberra would like to congratulate the graduating classes of 2020, 2021 and 2022.

We are so glad we can celebrate your journey – you have grown in so many ways, and risen to meet challenges with grace and creativity.

Many of you are already impacting your chosen fields, while others embark on the postgraduate study path.

We are so proud of you all, and we can't wait to see what you will do next.

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