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Katrina Marson: Leaping without a net

Beatrice Smith

Social justice, sex education and leaping without a net

In a world that unfailingly underestimates the drive of young professional women, Katrina Marson has combined passion and justice in her career.

Katrina began her studies at the Australian National University in 2008 where she studied a double degree in Arts and Law. Katrina says she “realised I wanted to major in Gender Studies almost immediately. I did Gender 1001 in my first semester and never looked back.”

Upon reflection, Katrina knows now that her studies at the ANU instilled in her a burgeoning sense of social justice.

“Issues relating to gender, sexuality and identity are obviously relevant to all aspects of life,” she says. “Being given the lens and the language to understand how these issues arise meant that I started to see them everywhere, including in my law courses. You can’t un-see it!”

Katrina decided to fill her College of Arts and Social Sciences degree electives with courses to help her understand feminist critical theory and social justice.

“I started to gear my law degree around it [too]. I took electives such as Family Law and Law and Sexualities, both of which incorporate feminist theory to a great extent,” explains Katrina.

“However, the Criminal Law course had also piqued my interest. I loved the human element of criminal law: every aspect of it, even the theoretical, is completely geared around human behaviour…I knew that my burgeoning understanding of gender and identity would play a huge role in my future professional life.”

Awarded Student of the Year at the ANU Alumni awards in 2013, Katrina now works for the Director of Public Prosecutions, appearing in the Magistrates Court and instructing trials in the Supreme Court here in Canberra. She says that her time at ANU had a huge influence on her career as she “ended up doing my Honours thesis in the area of criminal law with a gendered focus: I looked at sexual assault law and the incidence of unwanted sex – something which is overwhelmingly experienced by women.”

Katrina’s Honours thesis “concluded that primary prevention is the best way to create a cultural shift in the way we view sexual relationships and the gendered dynamics therein.”

Shifting the dynamic of sex education for young people is Katrina’s weapon of choice in combating the unacceptable rates of unwanted sex in the community.

“Education of young men and women about ethical behaviour in relating and relationships, as well as teaching them communication skills for that arena, is vital if we wish to see a decline in the incidence of unwanted sex,” she says.

Katrina’s time at university is apparent in her analytical approach to the issue.

“The criminal law is reactive by nature so it can only operate after something has already occurred. As I often say: if we don’t teach young people about their sexuality, and thereby their sexual autonomy, how will they ever know how to defend it?”

Katrina always knew she wanted to work in the area of sex education and last year “had good fortune to meet a good friend with whom I now work and [together we have] conducted several workshops for young Australians about ‘good sex’, communication and ethical behaviour.”

Due to the success of these workshops, Katrina and her business partner are now creating a new venture – The Pillow Talk Project.

Katrina’s passions for social justice and deeper understanding of the factors that contribute towards violence against women and unwanted sex drew her to working at the Magistrates Court, where she began working as a prosecutor at the ACT Director of Public Prosecutions after doing a placement there for her Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the ANU.

“I really loved Criminal Law and realised I was drawn to the advocacy side of things when I took Evidence Law and did an advocacy course during my degree…” she confesses.

“As prosecutors we represent the community and advocate on behalf of victims of crime, which lends real meaning to the work.

“In the areas of family violence and sexual offences, the gender issue is very much present, so my studies in the area have helped keep me sensitive to that.”

Katrina says she feels very lucky to work in a place where all her professional interests intersect.

When asked what advice she would give to new students, Katrina says that her advice would be to seize every opportunity.

“Ask yourself: “will I regret not doing this? Is it fear of being outside my comfort zone, or fear of failure, that’s making me hesitate?””

Every significant experience I’ve had that has shaped my future, during and after studies, has resulted from making the choice to take up an opportunity – often against fear or anxiety,” says Katrina.

“Doing so in the pursuit of self-betterment means you never stop learning, and is a great way to find direction when you feel uncertain about your future. So the saying goes, “Leap and the net will appear.”

For those who feel inspired by Katrina’s story and wish to gain a deeper understanding of the law, social justice or gender studies, the ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences has a broad range of study options for you.  

This is a sponsored post from the ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences. Read our Sponsored Post Policy if you’d like further information.


Beatrice Smith

Bea loves that her job as HerCanberra’s Online Editor involves eating, drinking and interviewing people - sometimes simultaneously. The master of HerCanberra’s publishing schedule, she’s usually found hunched over a huge calendar muttering to herself about content balance. Otherwise, you’ll find her at the movies or ordering a cheese board. More about the Author