Auckland law graduate wins Rhodes Scholarship

25 October 2011


A prestigious Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University has been awarded to Max Harris, an Arts and Law graduate from The University of Auckland.

He and two other short-listed candidates (from Canterbury and Waikato Universities) were selected after interviews in Wellington. The scholarships, among the most esteemed worldwide for university graduates furthering their studies overseas, cover fees at Oxford and pay a living stipend of $25,000 a year.

Max, 23, who was capped BA/LLB(Hons) in September, majored in History and Political Studies in his Arts degree.

The fourth Rhodes Scholar from Auckland in four years, he will take start at Oxford in October 2012, embarking on a Bachelor of Civil Law. This degree “provides the world’s best immersion in the big ideas about the purpose and role of the state”, he says. He will follow his BCL with an MPhil on topic addressing the role of judges in modern democracies.

Max is looking forward to Oxford’s “stimulating intellectual environment” in his areas of academic interest as well as such extra-curricular activity as the Oxford Union, the legal mooting programme and pro bono law groups.

His career ambition is to become a leader in New Zealand law, contributing to constitutional debate and developing a public interest law network, and “perhaps later in politics”. Max wants to work to make this country a fairer place and “achieve improvements in the lives of people”.

“I have become particularly interested in the persistent marginalisation of certain vulnerable groups such as indigenous peoples, and the mechanisms available — such as human rights — to redress that marginalisation.”

His family is from Wellington and he spent his early years in London, New York and Beijing. He began his secondary schooling in Indonesia where his parents were working. This was followed by 18 months at Wellington College where he was Dux in 2005 and Senior Cultural Person of the Year.

At The University of Auckland he was active in debating and public speaking, becoming president of its Debating Society and captaining the NZ Universities Debating team. In 2009 he was placed 22nd best speaker in the World Universities Debating Championships.

Mooting is also Max’s forte. He won mooting competitions at Auckland and national level, and this year was ranked 21st best speaker in the world at the Philip C. Jessup International Law Mooting Competition in Washington DC.

Max has been Editor-in-Chief of the Auckland University Law Review, contributed articles to this and other legal publications, and taken part in seminars and conferences in Auckland and overseas. Two years ago he was a Summer Scholar at the Australian National University in Canberra.

He has been National Affairs Officer for the Auckland University Students’ Association, and involved in the Princes Street branch of the Labour Party.

His other activities have included voluntary legal work, mentoring university and school students, service for a Wellington phone counselling service, and weekly care for a child with autism. He has played soccer, tennis and badminton at different levels, and is a registered cricket umpire.

This year Max has worked in Wellington as a Judge’s Clerk for the Chief Justice, the Rt Hon Dame Sian Elias.