New awards support outstanding postgraduate students

16 December 2013
david tong and Elise Verdonck

Two young legal practitioners have each received $15,000 awards to put towards their study for a Master of Laws (LLM) at the Auckland Law School.

It’s the first time the Auckland Faculty of Law has offered the awards to help academically outstanding domestic and international students pursue their postgraduate legal studies at the University of Auckland.

The recipients of the inaugural awards are Elise Verdonck from Belgium and David Tong from Auckland.

"We are very grateful for the generous support of alumni in New York and London who have made these awards possible" says Associate Dean Postgraduate Paul Myburgh.

"Both of the recipients of this year's awards have outstanding academic records and will make a valuable contribution to the intellectual life of the Law School."

Elise is a 23-year-old legal adviser from Belgium who has been admitted to the Law School for the first semester to study for an LLM in Environmental Law next year.

“This award is great news for me because it makes my overseas study possible,” she says. “In comparison with Belgium, the LLM is rather expensive and I was worried I may not be able to afford the costs.

“I’m fascinated by the environment and environmental regulations and I very much want to find out more about how things are done in New Zealand. I am grateful to the University and the people who have made my further study a reality.”

Elise has a Master of Laws in Economic and Tax Law and graduated with great Honours. She has studied one term abroad on an exchange programme at the University of Michigan Law School.

David Tong (28) is a former litigation solicitor now working as a consultant for New Zealand and other non-governmental organisations. He is currently in Europe after attending the Warsaw climate change conference as an Adopt a Negotiator Fellow.

He holds a conjoint Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws (with Honours), receiving a Senior Prize in Law and excelling in his double majors of Political Studies and Philosophy for his Arts degree.

He is undertaking a Master’s degree by minor thesis at the University of Auckland to deepen his understanding of international environmental law and human rights law.

“I am very pleased to receive this scholarship because it will help me to focus on producing an outstanding thesis,” he says. “It will let me delve deeper into the areas of law I find most fascinating, especially the international climate change regime.”

David’s legal work includes work as a litigation solicitor, judges’ clerk, tutor and researcher, and his career is notable for its emphasis on leadership and charitable activity and for its various prestigious academic awards.

He is a co-founder of the P3 Foundation, New Zealand’s leading youth charity for extreme poverty and development, and has held leadership roles within the Aotearoa New Zealand Human Rights Lawyers’ Association, Gifted Education Centre, and United Nations Youth Aotearoa New Zealand.