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Airline pilot aims for aviation law

Deakin’s Juris Doctor program allows Anna Wakelin to study when it suits her.

For many students, choosing to juggle a postgraduate degree around a raft of family, work and personal commitments is a daunting prospect.

So when Anna Wakelin – who works as an airline pilot, owns a farm, operates a small B&B business and also has a young family – decided to enrol in Deakin’s Juris Doctor (JD) program last year she knew she needed a course that could accommodate her busy lifestyle.

‘The flexibility of the JD’s online delivery appealed to me. I have two small children and I don’t want to be away from them any more than I have to be. I needed a course that would allow me to successfully manage work, family and study.’

Originally, Anna’s motivation for undertaking the JD program was the possibility she’d need to find another career. With an ongoing medical condition that kept her grounded from flying for almost 18 months, she was toying with other professional possibilities.

I worked at regaining my aviation medical, but with no progress my doctor suggested looking at a different career. Law had always interested me so I thought I would give it a go. There was always the possibility that I would return to work while studying so I needed a course that would accommodate that,’ she says.

Fortunately, Anna has regained the medical all-clear to resume flying which means she’s now taking full advantage of the JD program’s flexibility.

‘The best aspect about learning online is that you can do it in your pyjamas if you want to! I like being able to maximise my available time by not having to spend time travelling to and from campus and I can fit it around my other commitments,’ she says.

By making the most of technology and 24 hr access to the course resources, Anna manages to successfully blend her studies into her lifestyle.

‘I’ve transferred many of the lectures onto my iPod, so it’s not uncommon for me to be engrossed in a lecture while also doing household chores or a workout at the gym. I find that works well because it keeps my mind busy, and if I’m active, I seem to absorb more than if I was sitting at a desk or in a classroom,’ she explains.

While there are both pros and cons to studying on or off-campus, Anna has discovered advantages that go beyond the convenience cloud-based learning.

‘I find it helps you become more responsible for your own learning … I’m easily immersed in learning – I always want to know more. It’s also not difficult to communicate with other students, the teaching is of a high standard and the staff are friendly and approachable.’

One of the units Anna has enjoyed the most is Legal Method and Statutory Interpretation. She says that with the assistance of an ‘amazing teacher’ who delivered the curriculum with infectious enthusiasm she now has a much better understanding of global law.

‘I really liked learning about how the law developed both internationally and in Australia. Having grown up in New Zealand I was unaware of some of the issues faced in the formation of Australia as we know it today, and I now feel that I have a better understanding of this country.’

Eventually, Anna would like to use her JD qualifications to move into aviation law – a relatively new legal area that covers air travel and aviation business.

She says that while her experience as a pilot has given her a solid perspective from one facet of the industry, she’s now keen to explore others.

‘I’ve been involved in aviation since my first flying lesson at age 14 … as a pilot I’m very aware of the rules surrounding my role such as where and how fast I can fly.  When I studying an international aviation unit for my first degree my eyes were really opened to the complex interrelationship of aviation rules that apply to international aviation, along with how those rules developed and how they are enforced.’

In the relatively short lifespan of the aviation industry, these rules are becoming increasingly complex and this is where Anna would like to take her experience and new learning.

‘I am not sure yet exactly where I could fit in to the aviation law world, but possibly working within an airline legal department or for a government entity such as the Civil Aviation Safety Authority or the Australian Transport Safety Bureau,’ she says.

In the meantime Anna continues to enjoy the ‘fast-paced’ aviation environment and is happy to have found a postgraduate program that’s also delivering her important personal benefits.

‘I’ve found that focusing on the course has actually helped me regain my motivation and confidence. Making achievements in a subject area that’s pretty far removed from my comfort zone has been a very exciting thing for me.’ 

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