The ALRC plays an important educative role on the processes of law reform internationally, and in particular, within our region of South East Asia.
This international engagement provides a significant contribution to regional goodwill and is a distinct element in Australia's leadership in democratic institution-building.
Law reform agencies in the region are often in the early stages of their development, and they require training in the processes of policy development and law reform, as well as in consultation strategies and managing stakeholder engagement, particularly of government and parliamentary stakeholders. Maintaining independence in their processes and recommendations is something highlighted by the ALRC as being important to the integrity of the democratic law reform process.
Development and support
The demand and interest from developing countries for peer-to-peer support for law reform bodies has been consistent and significant. Since December 2009, the ALRC has provided detailed professional development to a range of law reform agencies.
- Botswana (January 2009): at the invitation and expense of the Government of Botswana, the ALRC spent two weeks in the country to assist in setting up the Botswana Law Reform Commission.
- Samoa Law Reform Commission (May 2009): the Executive Director of the SLRC spent one week at the ALRC for training sessions on research and consultation, policy development, research methodologies, building relationships with stakeholders, consultation strategies and report drafting.
- Samoa Law Reform Commission (May 2010): an ALRC Legal Officer was supported by the ALRC to spend three months based at the SLRC to assist with developing their consultation papers and strategies.
- Solomon Islands Law Reform Commission (October 2010): the ALRC hosted two lawyers from the SILRC for two weeks, as part of their training in law reform processes. The ALRC provided skills transfer sessions about policy development, research methodologies, consultation strategies and report writing. The ALRC also organised a number of visits to other human rights and legal agencies for these lawyers to expand their knowledge of democratic legal institutions.
- Papua New Guinea (February 2011): ALRC President Rosalind Croucher visited the PNG Constitutional and Law Reform Commission to discuss law reform processes and policy development.
- Samoa Law Reform Commission (April 2012): the ALRC hosted a Senior Legal Analyst from the SLRC for a two-week internship
Funding and resources
The ALRC does not have additional resources to support education and outreach activities therefore, while we are very happy to accommodate a program of training at the ALRC for interns and delegations—depending on the workload of the ALRC at any given time— the ALRC is unable to visit agencies in their own countries and workplaces, unless they are able to find funding from their own governments to support this activity. For example, the visit by the ALRC to Botswana in 2009 was funded by the government of Botswana, and AusAid has provided support to the Solomon Islands and Samoan law reform commissions for organisational capacity building.
Feedback from the agencies involved has been extremely positive and these visits have fostered mutual respect and knowledge, an ongoing interest in the work of all our agencies, and a desire to continue to develop our relationships.
In recent years the ALRC has received delegations from numerous countries–including Kenya, Vietnam, Malaysia, Uganda, Indonesia, Nigeria, Malawi and Papua New Guinea–keen to learn about and discuss Australia’s approach to law reform, including:
- the relationship between independent law reform and parliamentary processes and drafting
- working relationships with legal professionals and law reformers
- functions of the ALRC and relationships with other human rights organisations
- the development of law to take account of changing social economic, technological and political circumstances.
These delegations provide a further opportunity for Australia’s independent system of law to be better understood by our neighbours.
The Australasian Law Reform Agencies bi-annual conference brings together law reform agencies from across the Pacific. It is also attended by agencies beyond the immediate region, and it is not uncommon for delegates from the UK, Canada, USA, South Africa and New Zealand to be in attendance. Forging relationships and furthering understanding amongst these agencies contributes to Australia’s standing and reputation internationally.
Conference themes and discussions go to supporting civil society, balancing customary law with civil justice, constitutional law reform, the relationship of law reform to parliament and the judiciary, law reform processes and the enduring nature of law reform.
The ALRC has played a key role in ALRAC, hosting the event in 2007 in Sydney and participating in the 2009 conference in Vanuatu and the 2010 conference in Brisbane. The next ALRAC will be held in September 2012 in Canberra, and the ALRC will participate across the program.