Curtis Haas is our latest intern through the Melbourne Law School Public Interest Law Initiative Internship Program, which allows law students to apply their knowledge practically, while making important contributions to our work for subject credit.
In just a few short months, Curtis made a huge mark on the McCabe Centre, and so we asked him to reflect on what he learned during his internship and what he hopes to take with him in the future.
What motivated you to do an internship with the McCabe Centre?
I became interested in human rights as they relate to business practice following my undergraduate degree in International Studies, and was eager to learn how the law can support ethical trade and investment and prevent harm to communities.
The McCabe Centre was largely unfamiliar to me at first, but I was intrigued by its work as the only centre its kind in the world. As I learned more about the breadth and calibre of the McCabe Centre’s regional and international collaborations in law, policy and research, I recognised an opportunity to contribute to its mission and gain legal experience that would challenge me both intellectually and professionally.
The McCabe Centre’s internship program perfectly met these expectations and provided an incredibly rewarding placement. I was able to explore legal and policy issues across domestic and foreign jurisdictions, strengthen my legal research and writing skills, and developed a deeper understanding of the economic, social and moral challenges underpinning public health law and its various intersections.
Why are you interested in public health law?
I find public health law interesting for a few different reasons, but they can be separated into two main camps. Firstly, I think that everything is interconnected, and I don’t believe public health law can be segregated from other fields of law or policy. Public health is a human rights concern, and every decision and action has the potential to impact public health, whether that be physical, mental, social, or environmental health. I think examining the bigger picture can allow for better and more sustainable decision-making.
Secondly, I appreciate the ethical and moral challenges that arise in public health law. During my internship, I was fortunate to do some research about voluntary assisted dying, and attended a lunchtime Health Law and Ethics Network seminar held by Melbourne Law School on moral distress in law and medicine. While there is no single, ‘easy’ answer to these questions, I find that asking them provides a valuable opportunity to reflect upon our assumptions and understanding of life and death and what limits should exist, and in turn how these limits may be exercised.
What did you work on during your internship, and what knowledge/experience did you gain from it?
I was fortunate to work across both the Prevention and Treatment and Supportive Care teams on a range of interesting projects that canvassed various areas of law, both domestically and internationally.
My first research task examined the bans on alcohol in South Africa during COVID-19 lockdowns, and the response by the community, government, and alcohol companies. This work highlighted the difficult balancing act between public interest in times of crisis and the economic interests of private entities. This was particularly interesting in the context of South Africa, where alcohol, and especially wine production, forms a significant portion of the economy.
Another piece I worked on during my internship involved creating a summary table of the legal status of voluntary assisted dying (VAD) in Australia’s states and territories. VAD has been legally accessible in Victoria since 2019, will soon be available in Western Australia and Tasmania, and is being debated in other jurisdictions. It was interesting to engage with the different regulatory frameworks that act as safeguards, and to see where and why objections arose. Examining the nuance of clauses and the legal effects they have on people seeking access to VAD between the different state legislative provisions also proved a valuable exercise in statutory interpretation.
What do you hope to do after university?
Following my Juris Doctor, I hope to pursue a career in international commercial law. I have always loved Asia studies and global political economy, so I hope to bring these together in a field where I either work on international matters or (COVID-19 pending) work abroad. I’m not sure exactly what type of commercial law I would like to pursue – I have yet to decide, and am open to anything – but I hope I can bring these together with my interest in human rights in business practice. I chose to study law because I wanted a career where I would be challenged, and where I would always be learning. So provided I find a job that supports and encourages this, I’m pretty happy-go-lucky to see where the rest takes me.
Internships at the McCabe Centre are organised through our formal collaboration with Melbourne Law School. Students from Melbourne Law School interested in applying for an internship with the McCabe Centre can find more information about the opportunity here.