Finding a path forward
For someone who never believed he even had the potential to become a uni student, Malou Lueth is now midway through a double degree in law and commerce and is dedicated to sharing his story with others so they too can find their own path to success.
If there was an award given to ACU students for managing a long list of commitments with a calm, cool head, Malou would be the frontrunner. He’s busy – really busy – with an over-flowing diary carefully mapping out his days, grabbing every opportunity he can along the way.
Malou is currently in his third year of a Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of Commerce at the Melbourne Campus; a demanding double degree and a full-time commitment. But he’s also undertaking an internship at a law firm as part of his studies; he began a mentoring program for African young people and currently sits on the board of the organisation; he has started his own clothing line; he works for ACU as a student ambassador; and he fits in another part-time job at a local supermarket.
Chatting to Malou, you quickly learn time management is his superpower.
A pathway to law
While Malou is certain he’s on the right track, finding his way to university didn’t come easily.
“I didn’t think uni was for me, it wasn’t the plan. I play a lot of basketball and I thought I’d end up in sport. I just didn’t think I had the potential for study. It was only late in Year 11 that I began to turn things around.
“However, I knew my ATAR wasn’t going to be high enough and I didn’t get an offer for my first preference, which was law. But my school careers adviser told me to apply for an arts degree as a stepping stone.
“I had already decided on ACU after visiting the Melbourne Campus as part of an 'Explore Your Future' event and I loved that it was a smaller uni. I got to see the campus’ Moot Court and that was it, ACU just stuck with me.
“So, I ended up studying arts at ACU for six months and my GPA was then high enough to transfer to a double degree in law and commerce. I thought it would take me longer, but I was so happy to get in. I never thought this would happen.
“I opted for a double degree with commerce because I really liked studying business management in high school and it was a subject I was really strong in. And I thought it would be a good complement to law. Plus, it only adds an extra year, so why not study for just five years to get two degrees?”
Learning from mistakes
Malou’s interest in studying law grew from hard-earned personal experience.
“My dad was in the police force back in South Sudan where I was born and he’d tell me about how corrupt the criminal justice system is there, which has always been on my mind.
“But mostly, I was drawn to my degree because growing up I used to be on the wrong side of the law and get into a lot of trouble myself.
“Obviously, I knew I was in the wrong, but it felt like some of the police officers were using excessive force at times. I thought there’s more to this. I wanted to know my rights and be more educated. I figured why not study law and help people in the same position as me who didn’t know their rights either.”
Malou has already had an opportunity to help others with his newly acquired legal skills during his first internship at a law firm close to home, and is beginning to think about potential career paths.
“Since first year, my interest has been leaning towards contract and commercial law. But one thing I know for sure is I have a passion for helping people.
"As part of my internship, I was helping with a case, working with a youth in the justice system who was coming out of prison. It really touched me. I want to be able to give people second chances, as like I said, once upon a time that was me on the wrong side of the law.
"With an opportunity and a second chance, I’m now on the right side. I want to be able to do that for others, so maybe I’ll even go into criminal law and work defending youths in the justice system.”
Guiding the way
Packed into Malou’s schedule is a job working as a Widening Participation Student Ambassador for ACU, representing the university at events and advising young high school students trying to make their own way to uni.
“I think ACU is a great school and going out there and representing the uni is a good feeling. I like speaking to young people. In high school I didn’t have much motivation or support. I like letting young people know my story and where I’ve come from. It lets them know they can do it too. I hope I’m giving them the motivation I wish I’d had when I was their age.
“Before uni I’d only had bad experiences with the law, and I didn’t have any law graduates around me or anyone with a university degree, so the appeal of study just wasn’t there. But if there’s an issue, you need to be the solution.
“My advice to young people worried about their ATARs is if you have a vision for yourself, even if it’s really small, but you have something you want to do, you have to go for it.
"There’s no such thing as a barrier. There’s always a way to get over a hurdle – sometimes you just have to jump. Nothing can stop you from doing what you want to do.
“When I came to understand how important my ATAR was, it was almost too late. I had already lost hope and I didn’t know about pathways. Now, looking back, I see that it was my mindset. But I’m doing alright now!
“My faith is also a big part of my life and I’ve always been inspired by Psalm 34:10 in the tough times – “The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.”
“So, do what you want to do, there’s always a way. Sometimes that tiny bit of motivation is all you need to do great things.”
When Malou joined the ACU Widening Participation Student Ambassador team, he was already an experienced mentor after starting an organisation with friends called the African Youth Initiative.
“It’s a mentorship program based in Western Melbourne where we go into schools to support African teenagers.
"We’re trying to give them the encouragement that we needed ourselves, whether it’s to think about work or going to uni. The friends I run it with are all African too, and we have lived this experience and know what they’re going through. We let them know we’ve been there.”
Malou himself came to Australia when he was just five but said his African heritage has never left him, which is why supporting young people through AYI is so important.
“It took a long time to adjust. I’m sure it’s the same for a lot of other migrants, but the struggle comes from living in two worlds. Your culture at home is so different, you speak another language, and then you have to go to school which is a whole other world with completely different traditions and languages.
“It was a battle; sometimes you don’t know your own identity living in the two worlds. And on top of that, being so young when I moved here, I didn’t know exactly what racism was, but you still feel the effects of it.”
Malou and his friends have big plans for scaling AYI and hope to expand their program’s reach in the future.
“We’d love to grow the organisation and go interstate. Recently we established a partnership with the Western Bulldogs Football Club, which has been great for AYI, and we organised mentoring during the school holidays. Seeing the potential in these kids is really amazing.”
Planning for the future
Malou is a planner, through and through, and thanks to careful time management and determination, his future is carefully coming together.
“I still have to complete my degrees and I want to go straight into law after that. In the meantime, I’ve recently started a clothing line which I hope to grow over the next few years.
“And then travel is my other goal. I really want the chance to speak to more people.
"Mentorship is so deeply rooted in me because I know how important it’s been for my own life. Being able to travel and mentor kids from different backgrounds is my greatest plan.”
For now, Malou knows his plate is full, yet his calm, organised nature keeps him on track.
“When I stop to think about it, I know I have a lot of commitments. But the thing about me is I love opportunities. If I see one, I grab it and I make time for it, because they’re not always there. My rule is you have to do what you can.
“What’s worse is living in regret and thinking I wish I had done this or that. That’s definitely not how I want to live my life. So, everything that I want to do and everything I can do right now, that’s it, I’m going to do it.”
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