The early origins of colonial Australia arose from the labour of convicts shipped over from Great Britain. It seems only fitting then that experts on the criminal mind would come together at UNSW to host a virtual course to discuss the origins, statistics, and treatments for Australia’s offender groups. Undertaking SOMS 1501 – Inside the Criminal Mind was a unique opportunity to gather insight into the criminal world based on scientific research and expert experience. From young offenders to wrinkly wrongdoers, the clinical expertise imparted through daily livestreams is a must do for the aspiring criminologist or true crime fanatic. Of general interest were lectures on serial killers and the fabled psychopath. The deep fascination that everyone held with this topic was apparent, as a barrage of questions were posed in an effort to clear up myths and better understand the predatory nature of some of society’s worst offenders.
On the other hand students also enjoyed the opportunity to better understand the perspective of people dedicating their lives to fighting crime. Students were able to engage in discussion with detectives who are making efforts to outsmart the Vietnamese crime syndicate growing cannabis in Australia’s sunny suburbia. Finally perhaps the most privileged segment of the course was the opportunity to live stream into Sydney’s most progressive prison. After a presentation from the Governor on the leaps and strides they are making towards more effective rehabilitation, there was ample opportunity to discuss with a group of inmates about their experiences within the new system. It was truly inspiring to see such progress and hear in an incredibly articulate fashion the perspectives of these men.
Primarily I am a student who loves to fill my schedule and often this can turn life into an intense juggling act. The biggest concern I had undertaking this course was in how I would be able to maintain a work-study balance. The short duration week-long of the course helped in this regard, but the prospect of 12 hour work-study days still daunted me. In reality the virtual nature of the course proved to be an advantage as any content I failed to grasp or misremember could be immediately reviewed in the recordings. The daily running time of the course was approximately 6 – 7 hours and the technical issues were few and far between. The biggest recommendation I could offer with this course is to ask as many questions as you can. You have at your disposal some of the greatest Australian minds on criminology. Dig deep and make use of their knowledge and experience with the criminal mind.
The 4 day HEX sprint was an awesome experience. Going into the programme I wasn’t too sure about how everything was going to work as everything was being held online. However, I definitely wasn’t disappointed and the programme exceeded my expectations of how a well virtual programme could be organised. The programme was based around teaching us the key skills of entrepreneurship, beginning with idea generation, market research, prototyping all the way till the last day when we had to pitch a startup idea to venture capitalists. The programme was only 4 days, so this was a lot of information to take in in such a short amount of time. Each day was very jam packed, usually consisting of a mixture of talks on various topics by experts, panels with industry professionals, workshops to learn different skills, working with your team on your startup idea, and networking/social events with alumni and fellow HEXies.
Each day ran from around 9am to 9pm New Zealand time. I definitely felt lucky being in this time zone because the American attendees had to stay up very late into the night to attend the workshops! My main takeaway from this programme is a better understanding of the importance of marketing yourself and your product. The programme outlined the importance of leveraging platforms such as Linkedin to search for opportunities and connect with professionals. These were concepts that I was not really exposed to before this experience and I am sure that they will be very valuable as I start my career after university. The programme is also a really good way to meet and work with people from different countries and backgrounds. I definitely met people that I would not usually have been able to work with outside of this programme. The programme itself was very well organised.
General communication was done using slack, workshops and panels were held on Zoom, and networking events were held on a platform called Remo, which was quite cool for networking because it allows you to move to different tables to talk with different people. Even though everything was virtual, it was very easy to get in touch with different people and ask mentors for help when you need it. It would have been nice to meet everyone in person, but I didn’t feel like I missed out on much just because the programme was held virtually. If you are thinking about taking the 4 day HEX sprint programme, I would recommend it. It is really intensive and quite stressful when you are in the middle of it and there were definitely days where it was quite overwhelming, but looking back it really opened my eyes to a lot of opportunities.
The UNSW virtual program was such an exciting and eye-opening experience. We thoroughly explored the criminal mind from many different aspects. We learned about the motivations of behind criminals. Everyone was hooked during these lectures; they were so interesting! We learned about famous killers like Jeffrey Dahmer from the perspective of professionals who have treated people like that before. We also learned about the criminal justice system with talks from detectives, criminal justice lawyers and pathologists. Hearing lawyers talk about how they defend criminals and listening to a detective discuss one of his famous cases was awesome. We could also ask them heaps of questions anonymously, which was great because it encouraged people to ask way more exciting questions.
We were given the opportunity to call a group of inmates in a correctional facility and learn about their prison system experiences. They educated us about what is the most important and helpful in rehabilitating prisoners. Learning about their experiences in different prisons was fascinating and highlighted how negative the current system is. For me, meeting the men allowed me to grow and gain much more empathy for them. The media paints all prisoners as intimidating, aggressive and unremorseful. However, talking with them showed me that they are just normal men with families who have made mistakes and wish to get back on the right track in life. This was the best takeaway from the course because I have gained a new insight into offenders. This experience will enable me to work from a more empathetic and rehabilitation focused position for the rest of my career. The call to the correctional centre allowed us to understand how to move forward best to aid offenders in the future as we move into careers in psychology, criminology, and law.
The course followed Youtube Live lectures with another lecturer on the chat ready to answer all questions without interrupting the lecture’s flow. It allowed online students to stay connected to the course and made it interactive and engaging. This allowed us to build a super friendly community with everyone. By the end of the week, it felt like we were in a class with friends rather than individuals watching a lecture. The lecturers were understanding of time-zone difficulties and were super onto it with technical problems.
I would absolutely recommend the UNSW course to others. It was so impressive; I think it is the only course that I wish had gone on longer. I even enjoyed the assignments, which says a lot. The course is set up so well, they really thought of every detail, even for online students. It is a fantastic opportunity to learn from a wide range of jobs and ask these professionals any questions you might have. If you want a career in criminal justice but are not sure what aspect you enjoy more, this course will give you an insight into every detail. Alternatively, suppose you already know what career you want. In that case, it will allow you to appreciate the people working around you in the system. I honestly wish I could retake this course each year.
It’s 9pm, time for a movie, bed or maybe international criminal law? If the third option intrigued you, you might be just right for Stockholm Law School’s Virtual Winter Program. From 9-11pm most weeknights for one and a half months at the end of 2020, I zoomed into Stockholm Law School for 2 hours for some of the most insightful lectures of my university career. Together with students from across Europe and Oceania, we listened to lectures and participated in seminars led by leading academics and practitioners in the international criminal law world. We heard from Judge Christine Van den Wyngaert, a current Judge at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers and a former judge of the International Criminal Court (ICC), International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and International Court of Justice (ICJ). We heard from Hans Correll, who represented the UN Secretary-General during the negotiation of the foundational document of modern international criminal law, the Rome Statute of the ICC. He also negotiated for the establishment of the international tribunals in Cambodia and Sierra Leone. We had lessons of substantive law and oral advocacy from a Senior Appellate Prosecutor of the ICTY and its residual mechanism (Barbara Goy). All of this was combined by the no less impressive leading academics and PhD students who joined them. To begin with, I can certainly attest to knowing very little about international criminal law. However, coming out of this course, I have a new appreciation for this evolving branch of law.
The course itself was graded on seminar participation, a final research essay on a topic of your choice and a simulated ICC component. I thrived working as a team to defend a fictitious individual from charges before the ICC in two written submissions and a final oral moot, argued before one of Sweden’s leading judges. It was this core group of international students with which I have made lifelong friends. When we weren’t studying, we zoomed to chat about differences between civil and common law legal systems and Swedish life and culture. We covered everything, from the way the Swedish queue (hint: they were social distancing before COVID) to their mandatory government ventilation inspections and chimney sweeps! Which just goes to show that even with the distance between us, this virtual course still offered great social benefits. Who knew starting this course that I would end it having someone to show me Stockholm one day.
Overall, this course is an incredible opportunity to take your learning global and explore unique topics from the comfort of your own home. And best of all, you might just get some credit out of it!