On Wednesday 6 June 2018, at the University of Notre Dame St Thomas More awards night, I had the honour of presenting Ryan Sutherland with the Sergeant Andrew (“Andy”) Russell Prize in Public International Law, the same prize I received in 2005.
Andy was a Sergeant in the Special Air Services. In 2002 he was fatally injured in Afghanistan when the patrol vehicle in which he was travelling hit a land mine. At the time he was 33 years of age, leaving behind his wife (Kylie) and his 2-week old daughter (Leisa); a daughter he would never meet. In 2003 LTCOL David Lewis, AM (Ret’d) founded the prize in honour of Andy and his family.
We know from Kylie, who knew him best, that Andy was in Afghanistan because he wanted to help. He wanted to do what was right and he believed that, no matter the odds, trying was better than not.
The prize stands as a reminder to question whether we are working for something we believe in. Something we feel passionate about. We are extremely lucky to have an education in the law, and we have a duty to apply that education in the pursuit of good, to honour not just Andy and his family, but all his fellow servicemen and women who have sacrificed their health or their lives in pursuit of what is good and right. That task may sound daunting, but it’s as simple as speaking up for what is right rather than staying silent, taking action rather than sitting idle. No matter the context, that can make a significant difference to peoples’ lives.
The 2017 recipient of the prize, Ryan Sutherland, is already on the path to making a difference. Ryan graduated from the University of Notre Dame in December 2017 with a Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of Arts. Since then, he has received a higher education scholarship from the Australian Institute of Disaster Resilience and is undertaking postgraduate studies in Disaster and Emergency Response.
We congratulate Ryan on winning the 2017 Sergeant Andrew Russell Prize in Public International Law, and wish him all the best for his postgraduate studies.