ACT News


Academic never lost faith in balancing act

Australian National University Associate Professor Alex Bruce had good reason for pride in both his robes when he received his PhD on Wednesday afternoon.

The ordained Buddhist monk, who studied animal law, is one of 2000 students graduating from the university this week.

The academic of more than a decade said it was a relief to have completed the required 100,000-word thesis while balancing commitments to his faith as an ordained monk of the Tibetan tradition.

''I treated the six months as a retreat so I fitted my prayers and meditation around my research,'' he said.

The one-time lawyer's path to Buddhism began young, when he would often read about the faith as a child.

''I'd always been interested in Buddhism from an early age and it was my mother who gave me a book and that was it,'' he said. ''I always used to go to Buddhist centres.''


The associate professor said it was his passion to use his knowledge of the law to campaign on issues of social justice.

''My abbot sent me back to the university to promote wisdom and compassion and to use the law as an instrument of social justice,'' he said.

Animal law, a relatively new academic discipline, is the study of consumer and competition law to benefit animals.

''I'm hoping to establish animal law as an active discipline; I've got three PhD students already interested in pursuing it,'' he said. ''There is enormous scope for it to expand.''

Dr Bruce said Buddhism teachings, including respect for animals, was what sparked his interest in their welfare.

''When supermarkets say free-range eggs, that might not actually be the case, so we look at how that could be misleading,'' he said. ''We treat some animals better than others.''

Dr Bruce celebrated the day with family.

''I'm just delighted that my parents and sister have come from Queensland,'' he said.

Business and economics students will graduate on Thursday while science, medicine, engineering and arts students will be handed their certificates on Friday.