Welcome to the inaugural edition of the ALRC Brief. The idea for this newsletter is to keep you in touch with the ALRC and give you an update on our current projects. The Brief will work hand in hand with our website, inquiry-specific newsletters and blogs, with Twitter and Facebook to broaden our lines of communication with you and interested stakeholders in our inquiries. We want to encourage greater awareness of, and involvement in, our processes, our thinking, and our reports.
While I was looking through a history of ALRC work recently, I came across the first ALRC law reform bulletin released in January 1976 and written by the Hon Justice Michael Kirby, the very first Chair of the ALRC. Justice Kirby described the bulletin as “an entirely informal way to inform readers of developments relevant to the reform of the law in Australia. … To escape irrelevance law reform must go out to the society it serves”. Re-establishing the notion of a law reform bulletin, the ALRC Brief has similar aspirations and I am delighted that we are continuing another aspect of Kirby’s legacy in this simple way.
As an independent law reform agency, not tied to any particular government, political party, stakeholder group or community interest, our role in advising about how Australia’s laws can be improved is a unique one. Sitting in the Senate in early February, listening to some of our stakeholders giving evidence to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee’s Inquiry into the ALRC (more on this later in the Brief), I was very moved and humbled to hear people speak so generously and passionately about the important and unique role that the ALRC has played over its 36-year history to advance the rule of law and to ensure a more equitable, accessible and fair system of justice for this country. This is a tribute to the leadership and dedication of Chairs, Presidents, Commissioners and staff, our dedicated stakeholders and friends who contribute so much to our work.
For those of you who don’t know, this Inquiry was called following significant budget cuts to the ALRC. As a result, the ALRC is now functioning with just one full-time Commissioner—myself, as opposed to the usual complement of three—and a reduced complement of legal and support staff. The importance for Australia’s system of justice, to have a properly funded independent law reform body, cannot be overstated. We await with anticipation the final report of this Inquiry, which is due at the end of March.
In response to these budget cuts the ALRC will be moving offices in late April, across the road to the MLC Centre, where we will be sharing space and some services with the Australian Government Solicitor. This move will achieve a significant reduction in rent to help us manage the effect of the budget cuts. Change of address details will be published on our website closer to the time of the move.
We have a very busy time ahead of us and in this first edition you can read more about the Inquiry into the ALRC, catch up on where our current inquiries are up to, see what is on the inquiry horizon, find out about our Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) and generally get a sense of what is going on at the ALRC. I hope you find the ALRC Brief informative.