Our first Rhodes Scholar

Ashleigh Barnes, Class of 2011, has just received a Rhodes Scholarship, with the outstanding achievement of being one of only 10 female recipients in NSW history.

Ashleigh said it is an incredible honour.

“It will be an enormous opportunity and a huge platform which I can develop professionally and personally and use it to drive change and share my knowledge with others”, she said.

 The Rhodes Scholarship is one of the world’s most prestigious, international postgraduate awards for students to study at Oxford University. To be the recipient of this award is a great honour and opportunity, especially to women, as this year marks the 40th year that women can apply for the award.

“If you look at the Rhodes scholarship it’s all about the legacy that these scholars leave and the way that they contribute to society. That’s something I want to do, and do it with the empowerment of women at the forefront of my mind.”

Ashleigh has spoken warmly of her school years at Santa, commenting on the influence of her teachers in leading her young mind to reach out constantly to others and help those in need.

“I think that Santa Sabina was really, really important, obviously where I had my formative years, and the social justice values at Santa Sabina and the Dominican values have continued to shape me and influence what I do. The partnership with Montebello, the constant drive to raise money for different campaigns, were always at the forefront of my understanding of what it means to be a citizen.”

Following her graduation from Santa, Ashleigh became a high profile student in the UTS community, using her leadership skills attained at Santa to create various initiatives aimed at helping students and raising awareness of significant issues. Ashleigh has founded various on-campus mental health initiatives at UTS. These include the Buddy and Smile program, which is aimed to help bridge the gap between social and academic life among university students, creating a more balanced lifestyle. Ashleigh commented on the change she has felt on campus since her initiatives have been implemented, and her hopes to continue to create this kind of change throughout her life.

Ashleigh graduated from the University of Technology Sydney with a Bachelor of Laws (First Class Honours), as well as a Bachelor of International Studies. She has also won the University Medal in Law. Ashleigh will go on to complete the Bachelor of Civil Laws, focusing on the intersection between corporate law and human rights law at Oxford University. She is a strong and committed woman, who is an advocate for equality, women’s rights and overall social justice. This type of commitment is what made Ashleigh stand out amongst the hundreds of other applicants.

 When asked what career she would like to continue into, Ashleigh has stated that she is very interested in understanding the interaction of corporations with human rights, and the duty of those corporations to respect human rights. She is interested in the global economy where corporations have powers equal to or greater than states in many circumstances, and she would like to be a figure who can lead change and reform laws in that area of Australia.

“I’m not sure how I’ll do it but I am interested in becoming a barrister, a leading international lawyer and adviser to government business.”

We wish Ashleigh all the best in her degree at Oxford, and we have no doubt that this will not be the last time we hear of her and her extraordinary achievements.

Emily Middleton
Class of 2016