The Sarah Flynne Memorial Scholarship is a joint scholarship between EDO and the Flynne family to honour the life and work of former EDO lawyer, Sarah Flynne. Its purpose is to carry on Sarah’s commitment to environmental law by removing a barrier to entry into the legal profession for young people from a rural, regional, or remote area, and fostering a passion within them for public interest environmental law.
In 2023, the inaugural scholarship was awarded to Kashmir Miller, from South Gundurimbla on Bundjalung Country in northern NSW, for her commitment and passion for environmental justice and her active work in the community on climate and environmental democracy issues. We spoke to Kashmir about what drives her to be an environmental lawyer and what she learned during her placement with EDO.
Tell us a bit about yourself – your education, professional and volunteering background, and any other interests you’d like to share.
I have recently graduated from Southern Cross University with a Bachelor of Laws with First Class Honours. Previous to that I studied a Diploma of Environmental Science and a Diploma of Stage Acting at Sydney Theatre School. I am just starting out my professional career, working part-time for Elizabeth Watson-Brown, MP for Ryan, as a community organiser. I am extremely passionate about the environment and politics, having been a volunteer with groups such as the Greens, Lock the Gate and Aboriginal Legal Service NSW.
Outside of law and politics, I love exploring local arts scenes by going to plays and live music. I also love being onstage, and I am professionally trained as an actor. I also love skateboarding!
What drives you to be an environmental lawyer?
My passion for wildlife and biodiversity was my initial driver to work towards environmental protection however I could. My favorite Aussie animal is the Tasmanian Devil. I remember as a kid I could count up to 10 koalas on my bus to school from South Gundurimba in rural NSW. Now when I visit home I am lucky to see 1 or 2.
My hometown of Lismore has been on the forefront of the human face of climate change. I remember when I was in year 12 in 2017, my half-yearly exams got postponed due to the town being devastated by a flood. My street that I lived on turned into an island for a week with no power. Last year in February 2022, we had another flood that was several metres higher than in 2017 and saw thousands of homes and jobs lost. Climate change is here and it is chipping away at all the things I hold dear, and I do my best to turn my despair into motivation to work as an environmental lawyer. Earlier this year I was protesting in Doubleduke State Forest which was being logged daily, and as I was sitting in a tree set to be logged I could see greater gliders and hear the cries of the powerful owl. That inspires me to fight like nothing else.
Which of EDO’s legal programs were with you placed in? Describe the work they do.
I spent the first half of my placement with the Biodiversity team where we worked on cases involving native forest logging in NSW. This was particularly special as these forests are very close to where I grew up, and being able to work with incredible NGO’s and community groups such as NEFA was very rewarding. In the second half of my placement I was with the Healthy Environment and Justice – Southern and Central Queensland team, where I helped out on a variety of cases and submissions ranging from water licenses to human rights.
Describe an average day of your Practical Legal Training placement with EDO.
No two days were the same in my placement at EDO. An average day could range from assisting in court, meeting with clients, doing legal research for a submission or drafting up documents that will be submitted in court.
What did you particularly enjoy during your placement?
I really enjoyed the work that the EDO does on the connections between human rights and climate change. Rising temperatures and changing climates will have catastrophic impacts on our biodiversity, water and land, but we are now learning how drastic it will be to our communities as well. Housing, food security, health, culture and so much more are impacted by climate change – which is something I found really valuable to explore as it offers new avenues of legal change.
What was the most valuable thing you learned at EDO?
That even in a system that is built to work against the environment, there is still hope to find justice. From the lawyers, scientist, community groups and everyone who plays a part in the work the EDO does – the hope that everyone builds off each other is how we will find a future for people and planet.
What will you do with the opportunity provided by the scholarship?
After I get admitted as a solicitor, I would love to work somewhere like the EDO and use the skills I have learnt to fight for the environment. I am also interested in working in criminal law, defending climate protestors who have put themselves on the line to protest laws that are destroying our communities and our environment.
Would you recommend others apply for the Sarah Flynne Memorial Scholarship and why?
I would recommend applying for the Sarah Flynne Memorial Scholarship if you have a passion for environmental protection and wish to advance the rights of nature in a meaningful and impactful way. Our legal system is stacked against the environment, and doing a placement at the EDO allows you to develop and apply your legal skills in a way that provides a voice for the voiceless. I am so grateful for my time at the EDO and being able to contribute to the work that they do.
The Sarah Flynne Memorial Scholarship is open to any law graduate under the age of 25 from a regional or remote part of Australia. Each year, one successful applicant will gain a place to undertake a Practical Legal Training placement for up to eight weeks in an EDO office, with a grant of $3000 to pay for travel and accommodation. Learn more and apply here.