UNSW Law and Arts & Social Sciences alumnus Nanak Narulla has been announced as the Tasmania Rhodes Scholar for 2021. He is the seventh UNSW Law alum to receive the scholarship since 2014.

Mr Narulla is a Bachelor of Laws first class honours and Bachelor of Arts graduate. All four of his siblings studied at UNSW and three are also Law alumni. His brother Harj, one of the family’s UNSW Law alumni, received a 2016 Rhodes Scholarship.

At Oxford Mr Narulla plans to study a Master of Science in Environmental Change and Management and a Bachelor of Civil Laws, which he describes as “one of the best masters-level law degrees in the English-speaking world”. He intends to return to Australia to practise as an environmental lawyer, working in public interest environmental litigation and climate change policy.

“Receiving the scholarship is a great honour, and I feel immensely excited and grateful to have been selected. It’s quite surreal and is still sinking in, particularly given the whole process was conducted over Zoom,” Mr Narulla said.

“It’s an incredibly exciting prospect to study under some of the world’s leading academics, some of whom I have long admired, and to learn from the rich community of Rhodes Scholars brought together from across the world.”

Acting Dean of UNSW Law, Professor Andrew Lynch, congratulated Mr Narulla.

“Nanak is an exceptional student who has the capacity to make a significant contribution to the legal community and society more broadly. At UNSW Law, we are enormously proud of him. I have no doubt he will make the most of this wonderful opportunity,” he said.

Professor Merlin Crossley, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic, who studied biomedical research in Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar in the late 1980s, said he was impressed by Mr Narulla’s strong values.

“The world needs young people with determination, strong values, expert knowledge and the ability to communicate in a positive way. It is wonderful to see yet another UNSW Law graduate having the opportunity to study at Oxford, and I am sure Nanak will make the most of it,” he said.

Mr Narulla said the move to the mainland and UNSW from Tasmania was made much easier by having his siblings study at UNSW.

“Seeing the expansive journeys that they and their peers embarked on, in policy, academia, activism and legal practice inspired me as a young student,” he said.

“In my experience, UNSW Law and its faculty encourage students to appreciate the legal profession as a privileged and trusted profession, with responsibilities to the whole of society. This environment instilled in me a belief in the positive potential of law. It provided opportunities for me to bring my personal commitments to sustainability and multiculturalism into my work and study.”

Mr Narulla said growing up in Tasmania with nature and wilderness on his doorstep was the seed for his lasting interest in sustainability and climate change.

“It was great to form the link between home and my research in my final year of uni, where I wrote my thesis on Tasmanian forest management and regulation in light of climate change,” he said.

Rhodes Scholars are chosen on the basis of exceptional intellect, character, leadership and commitment to service. Each year, about 100 scholars are selected from around 60 countries, including up to nine from Australia – one for each state, plus three Australia-at-Large awards.

Belinda Henwood