Message from the President, December 2012

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Hello. This is Rosalind Croucher. I’m the President of the Australian Law Reform Commission and, as it’s approaching the end of 2012, I wanted to give a short reflection on the year and to say ‘thanks’ to a lot of people who have played such an important role in our work over the past year.

Well, first of all to say the thanks. We’ve had such an amazing contribution from people. Each year I reflect upon this and think how lucky we are to command such respect, both from the legal community and the broader community. We are constantly rewarded by the willingness of people to engage, through consultations, time and time again, through submissions, often from people in organisations that are very time poor, and yet you continue to work with us from one inquiry to the next. Without that kind of contribution we just couldn’t generate the quality of the work we do. So to all of you, who’ve played such a key role in your submissions and consultations, our stakeholders, thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

But on top of that, we have lots of other people who help us. For each inquiry we pull together an expert panel or advisory committee, and all of you participate with us. Again, pro-bono, out of the dedication of your work and engagement and wish to be involved in the key processes of law reform—you are great, too, and thanks to you all. Everybody who makes a submission or consults with us, or participates through our committees, is listed in our reports, which is a very small token of thanks for your key role, but an acknowledgement of the role that you do in fact play with us.

I also need to thank my Commissioners, who’ve worked on the inquiries over the time. In 2012 we began by saying goodbye to Professor Terry Flew from QUT in Queensland who had led the inquiry into classification. That inquiry was completed in March and the report tabled early in that month, and Terry then returned to his work at the University.

We also were able to welcome Susan Ryan, the Age Discrimination Commissioner who was given a second hat as a part-time Commissioner to work with the ALRC on the Barriers to Work for older Australians inquiry—quite a mouthful—but Susan, as Age Discrimination Commissioner, was perfect to work with us as a part-time Commissioner. And that work over the year has been very productive and we lead into the New Year in our final stage of that work, with the report in March.

The other Commissioner I need to thank is Professor Jill McKeough who joined us in March to lead the Copyright inquiry—an inquiry that is a very big one, like the Classification inquiry, and that will continue right through next year with a report due in November 2013.

So lots of thanks. And also to the marvellous team I work with at the ALRC, all the legal officers and all of the inquiry support team.  It’s a small team, but I like to describe them as like a team of elite athletes, for the quality of their work and their dedication to their training, which is constantly tested in the process of law reform.

In terms of the specific inquiries, I mentioned that we finished Classification. We also finished the second of our family violence reports, and the report in that inquiry, the Commonwealth family violence inquiry, was launched by the Attorney-General in Parliament House in February. That completed a big chapter in ALRC work in the arena of family violence, it being the second of the family violence reports, in all amounting to 289 recommendations for reform over those two inquiries.

The Age Barriers team has been heading through 2012 with an Issues Paper, then a Discussion Paper, and we’re now in final report mode. I’m the Commissioner in charge of that inquiry. And Jill McKeough, leading the Copyright team, working into the new year with a Discussion Paper to be released in the earlier part of the year. The Copyright team also made history in the launch of an epub for the  Issues Paper, which is downloadable for tablets. So, great work on the inquiry front.

At the other end, I should mention our interns. We have a very vibrant and active intern program and the quality of our interns is extraordinary. We are bowled over by the number of people who apply and it’s very exciting to read their CVs. I must say, sometimes it’s extremely daunting to see how accomplished all of the young applicants are for our internships. In summer we had five; over 1st semester, four; and in 2nd semester another four. They are drawn from Australian universities, but also internationally. We had one intern from Harvard, one from Michigan, one from Indonesia, and that continues the pattern of our intern population. Their contribution is also very valuable to us and all of our interns are listed in our reports.

Well, heading into next year, what’s on the agenda? First, we have to finish the Age Barriers inquiry, and then the vital work in the final two stages of the Copyright inquiry. So, at the end of 2012, what can I say? Well, it completes 38 years of law reform by the Australian Law Reform Commission, an enduring contribution not only to law, but also from my point of view a massive contribution to legal history. And for my small part in that history I am very very proud of that work. So, thank you to everyone for your extraordinary contribution and support to our ongoing very important work.

Have a wonderful festive season, and I look forward to seeing you all in the New Year.