ALRC Brief | August 2012

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From the President

I am delighted to report that the ALRC has once again been honoured in the Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA) Annual Report Awards, winning a Bronze Award for our hard copy report for 2010–11. This is the third consecutive year that we have been selected for an Award and I am extremely proud that the ALRC’s commitment to accountability and transparency—and quality publications—continues to be recognised in this way. I want especially to thank our corporate team for their work here.  

Also, more good news on the implementation front.  ALRC recommendations from the Family Violence and Commonwealth Laws inquiry in relation to Migration are making headway; and recommendations from the Discovery inquiry have been implemented in the Federal Court. Recommendations from our 2004 report on Gene Patenting and Human Health have now made it into legislation and substantial progress on the implementation of many of our recommendations in the 2008 Privacy report has also been made.

In June ALRC staff enjoyed a visit from Professor the Hon Gareth Evans AC QC. Professor Evans was one of the ALRC ‘originals’, the group appointed by Attorney-General Lionel Murphy in 1974 as the foundation members of the ALRC under the Chairmanship of Justice Michael Kirby. The originals included Evans, at only 30 years old and then a Senior Lecturer at Melbourne Law School; Associate Professor Gordon Hawkins, the late Sydney University criminologist; Gerard Brennan QC (as he then was), 46;  the late Professor Alex Castles (41 years old)—legal historian par excellence—and John Cain, 43 (later Premier of Victoria). Professor Evans was primarily responsible for the Commission’s 1975 report on Criminal Investigation. He shared with us remembrances of the ALRC in its early days, and an overview of his career since then reminded our legal staff of how wide-ranging and rewarding are the opportunities of a career that begins with law – and includes time in law reform, particularly at the ALRC. 

In September, some of our legal and corporate staff are travelling to Canberra to participate in the biennial conference of the Australasian Law Reform Association (ALRAC). This conference draws people from across our region and even further afield from Canada, the UK and South Africa to discuss matters of law reform and to share experiences, resources and information. Themes explored will include law reform in small jurisdictions, issues of independence and effectiveness, and the design and conduct of inquiries. The conference will feature an opening address from former Chairman of the Australian Law Reform Commission and former Justice of the High Court, the Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG. ALRC officers will deliver presentations on mapping implementation, using web technologies to broaden accessibility and reach, as well as facilitating a session for executive directors on corporate issues and planning. This conference is always stimulating and informative and helps us to develop our networks across the region and facilitate the sharing of experience and knowledge—broadening our international outreach.   

Work at the ALRC!

We are currently recruiting for the position of Legal Officer. Legal Officers contribute to the ALRC’s important inquiry work through research, analysis, and policy development, contributing to the ALRC’s outcome: ‘informed government decisions about the development, reform and harmonisation of Australian laws and related processes through research, analysis, reports, community consultation and education’.

See full position description and selection criteria.  Applicants must provide a CV and address the selection criteria.  Applications close Monday 17 September.

ALRC website gets AA for accessibility

We’re very happy to announce that the ALRC website has achieved Level Double A (AA) conformance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0).

Web accessibility encompasses all disabilities that affect access to the web, including: visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive and neurological disabilities. WCAG 2.0 identifies techniques to create and manage web content in ways that are more accessible to people with disability — for example, through assistive technologies like screen readers. Websites that are more accessible are also generally more user-friendly to everyone.

In April this year we commissioned Vision Australia to perform an audit of the ALRC website to identify any accessibility issues. These have now been rectified, and Vision Australia has issued a Statement of Accessibility for the website. This places the ALRC well ahead of the schedule set by the Australian Government’s National Transition Strategy, setting a target for all government agencies to achieve Level AA conformance to WCAG 2.0 by December 2014.

Our first EPUB

In another first for the ALRC, the Copyright Issues Paper, Copyright and the Digital Economy, released earlier this month, was published not only in HTML and PDF, but also as an EPUB (or ebook)!

An EPUB is an open ebook format which can be read with a variety of different devices, including compatible ebook readers, tablet computers and smart phones. Some of the useful functions EPUB files and readers generally provide are:

  • improved search capacity across a publication
  • resizable text
  • annotation tools
  • bookmarking
  • the convenience of use in a mobile device

We would like to know what people think of the EPUB version. Any feedback we receive will help us determine whether publishing ALRC consultation documents as ebooks is a worthwhile course for us to pursue.

To download the EPUB, find out more, or leave feedback, see: Copyright and the Digital Economy (IP 42)- EPUB.

Inquiry update

Copyright and the Digital Economy

On 20 August, the Copyright team their first consultation document for this inquiry— Copyright and the Digital Economy (IP 42). It provides background information, highlights issues so far identified in preliminary research and consultations, and outlines the principles that will shape ALRC proposals for reform. It asks more than 50 questions about how the current copyright framework is affecting both commercial and creative enterprise and how current exceptions and statutory licences are working in the digital environment.

We are calling for submissions in response to the Issues Paper, closing 16 November.

Once we begin receiving submissions, we will post them on the ALRC website (See our policy on Submissions and Inquiry material).

Age Barriers to Work

The ALRC received 54 public submissions in response to the Issues Paper released in May, Grey Areas—Age Barriers to Work in Commonwealth Laws. These can be accessed via the ALRC website.

The Age Barriers team are working towards releasing a second consultation document in late September. This Discussion Paper will include draft recommendations for reform in the form of proposals. With the release of the Discussion Paper, we will call for a second round of submissions.

Subscribe to the Age Barriers e-news for further updates.

Legal internship program

This semester the ALRC has welcomed four interns to the ALRC including Max Dalton (UNSW) and Hannah Ryan from the University of Sydney. Fritz Sirega joins us from Indonesia. Fritz is a recipient of one of AusAID’s Australian Leadership Awards Scholarships. These scholarships are given to emerging leaders from developing countries who show great promise for giving their country a better future. Fritz has most recently worked as a Project Officer for Indonesia’s National Law Reform Program, and is currently undertaking a Doctor of Juridical Science at UNSW. As part of the scholarship, AusAID offers the scholars the opportunity to do a short-term unpaid internship with a reputable Australian organisation, to give them exposure to Australian leadership styles in the workplace and develop their international networks. We are very fortunate that Fritz nominated the ALRC as the place to do his internship. Fritz is working mainly with the Age Barriers team.

Also joining us is Max Bulinski from the University of Michigan in the United States. Max was awarded a Bates Fellowship to enable him to work at the ALRC from August 1st until mid-December. He is working mainly with the Copyright team.

Applications for full-time three week internships in Summer 2013 are now open. The ALRC gives preference to interstate applicants, and those attending institutions outside the Sydney metropolitan region, for the summer program.