The future is Fulbright for UQ law wiz

8 Jan 2019

A future where impairment is accepted as part of human diversity without question or fanfare is the dream of The University of Queensland School of Law’s latest Fulbright Scholar.

Dr Paul Harpur
Dr Paul Harpur

Blinded by a train accident at age 14, senior law lecturer Dr Paul Harpur is the 12th TC Beirne School of Law recipient of the prestigious scholarship.

“I will use the scholarship to work for three months as a visiting fellow at Syracuse University and Harvard University in the United States of America,” Dr Harpur said.

“There I will further my project Universally designed for whom? Disability, the law and practice of expanding the ‘normal user’.

“It concerns the development and promotion of design that is accessible to everyone in society, regardless of physical, sensory, mental or intellectual ability.

“My project aims to combat ableism in everyday life, so that in the future different ability is not associated with being ‘disabled’.”

It is more than 40 years since Ross Barber broke ground as a law academic with a disability from UQ to receive a Fulbright scholarship.

  • Read more: A history of the Fulbright Scholar at the TC Beirne School of Law

Mr Barber later became Dean of the TC Beirne School of Law from 1978 to 1981 and was described as an “exceptional lawyer” by former Governor-General of Australia, the Honourable Quentin Bryce AC CVO.

Dr Harpur said he was proud to follow the trailblazer on to the honour roll.

“Ross Barber’s award in 1976 represented a true milestone,” Dr Harpur said.

“When you also consider the career success of other Fulbright Scholars, there is no doubting the capacity of the awards to nurture success. Since the Fulbright program was established in 1946 there have been 37 alumni who have gone on to serve as heads of state or government in their home countries.

“In addition, 59 Fulbright alumni who have been awarded prizes by the Nobel Committees, and 84 alumni have won Pulizer Prizes.”

Fulbright scholarships came about in the aftermath of the Second World War as a means of encouraging the international exchange of knowledge between the USA and other nations.

US senator J William Fulbright spoke of turning “swords into ploughshares”, using the proceeds from the sale of surplus US war property to fund the program.  This was supported by President Harry S Truman.

The most recent recipient from the TC Beirne School of Law before Dr Harpur, in 2001, was Kerrie Burmeister, who also conducted a fellowship at Harvard University.

Ms Burmeister has served in the Australian Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet since 2009 and is currently based in Washington, USA.

Media: Dr Paul Harpur,, 0417 635 609; Communications Manager Katie Rowney,, 3443 1321.