From the town of Armidale, to calling Canberra home, to being honoured with international recognition in Ireland, Matthew’s ANU journey has been an exciting and diverse experience.
As a Bachelor of Arts student studying history, Matthew set about investigating Australians experience of the beach. In particularly he focused on that quintessential image in Australian culture of the lifesaver, and how the lifesaver came to represent a national identity shaped by the beach. In his research Matthew identified the lifesaver as a national type during the interwar period, similar to the ANZAC, and following a pattern of figures in our culture with similar characteristics and values. The motivation to volunteer, the identification by club colours, and the rituals like march pasts.
Matthew couldn’t have known that writing of his research would lead to international recognition, taking him to Ireland. This year he was named a global winner in the International Undergraduate Awards, recognising the excellence of his essay on the subject.
It was an unexpected first for Matthew, who flew to Ireland recently for the international awards ceremony. The streets of Dublin were a world away from those of Armidale, in the northern tablelands of New South Wales. A Tuckwell Scholarship in 2014 brought Matthew to Canberra and the ANU to study history and law.
“I was fortunate enough to be able to come to the ANU after receiving the Tuckwell Scholarship I have had a lot of opportunities to study a broad range of topics in both of my degrees. I have looked at the historical dilemmas of crime and justice to sexuality in Australian history, and the ways in which counterterrorism legislation operates to the ways in which our moral decision making is influenced by unconscious neural processes. The hardest decision has always been picking from the endless courses that I would love to do.”
Coming to Canberra and living in Ursula Hall, Matthew found a welcoming city and campus environment.
“I had the greatest time at Ursula Hall for my first two years at the ANU. The culture of Ursies was fun, welcoming and really supportive. If I had any concerns I always had a friend to turn to. There were a lot of opportunities to get involved in college life as well. I had a huge among of fun representing Ursies in the interhall debating competition and I became the most flexible I have ever been by training for the interhall dance competition.”
Matthew has made the most of opportunities beyond study, undertaking internships, and becoming an active member in the University’s theatre scene. He performed in both the ANU Arts and Law Reviews, portraying characters including former Prime Ministers Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull.
Like so many who come to Canberra, Matthew quickly came to appreciate all that makes this city special, from the vibrant café culture, to the convenience of having renowned institutions just a stone’s throw from campus.
“I love living in Canberra because everything is so accessible, especially from ANU. We have the best institutions like the National Library (which has been my second home), the National Gallery, and Parliament of course just at our doorstep.”
Longer term Matthew would like to pursue a PhD in history, and a career in academic. For now though he’s keeping his option open and exploring a variety of career paths. Reflecting on his time at ANU, he recalls fondly the wonderful exposure to new subjects he has gained, and encourage future students to make the most of the opportunities ANU provides.