The objective of the ALRC’s community education activities is to improve the community’s understanding of, and participation in, law reform processes so that the proposals put to government for consideration are informed by community attitudes,debate and discussion.
Table 7: Program 1.2 Deliverables
|2009–10 Budget||2009–10 Achieved|
|Online Discussion Forums||2||4|
|Reform journal—number of editions||2||1*|
|Kirby Cup competition||1||1|
|Presentations and information sessions||25||21|
* In 2008–09 the ALRC conducted a readers survey on Reform. As a result of the findings of this survey, and as one way of making some necessary reductions in expenditure, the ALRC made a decision to cease production of the hard copy journal. Instead, the ALRC will focus its activities around current inquiry work and move to an online newsletter format with the upcoming launch of the ALRC’s new website in August 2010. The ALRC will continue to publish the full articles from back issues of Reform on its website. Reform Online articles are available in HTML and RTF formats. Some editions are also available in PDF.
Utilisation of web-based communication tools and online discussion forums
During 2009–10, the ALRC developed web based consultation tools to broaden community access to ALRC inquiries. For example, the ALRC ran online forums for both the Secrecy and Royal Commissions Inquiries. The ALRC has further developed its online forums to include an online forum for the Family Violence Inquiry with women’s legal services and a Family Violence Blog open to the public. Both forums aim to stimulate engagement with stakeholders, to provide the community with access to information about the ALRC’s thinking and to provide an immediate way to contribute to the ALRC’s processes. See the article ‘ALRC Website and Gov 2.0’ in the special features section for more information on the ALRC’s online communication tools.
The ALRC also developed a regular e-newsletter for the Family Violence Inquiry which provides a quick and effective way of keeping stakeholders updated on the progress of the Inquiry, and also a means to seek further input through inclusion of a monthly ‘area of focus and questions’ in each of the newsletters. The ALRC had 939 subscribers to the Family Violence e-newsletter. The ALRC has also set up an e-newsletter for the Discovery Inquiry and intends to issue monthly newsletters as that inquiry progresses. Currently there are 122 subscribers at this early stage of the Inquiry.
Publication of the law reform journal Reform
The ALRC’s law reform journal, Reform, provided discussion of law reform issues aimed at the legal profession, law students and policy advisers, as well as the general community. It also provided updates on the work of the ALRC and an overview of current law reform projects within Australia and internationally.
During 2009–10, the ALRC produced one Reform journal, Reform: Housing (Issue 94, Summer 2009) which focused on one of the most pressing issues facing Australia today, the ability to provide adequate housing for all Australians. Articles included an outline of Federal Government initiatives in this area by the responsible Minister, the Hon Tanya Plibersek MP; and an assessment of the human rights implications of the national housing strategy by the Australian Human Rights Commission President, the Hon Catherine Branson, and her colleague Dr Cassandra Goldie; and consideration of the ramifications of a policy shift to community housing options by Adam Farrar
(NSW Federation of Housing Associations). Other articles included a debate on the various aspects of homelessness by Robin Banks (Public Interest Advocacy Centre) and Chris Hartley (Homeless Persons’ Legal Service), Karen Wilcox and Ludo McFerran (Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse), and Rebecca Reynolds (Twenty10). Respected Aboriginal community leader Tom Slockee provided a personal perspective on Indigenous housing, drawing on his lengthy experience in this field. Chris Lamont (Housing Industry Association) discussed housing affordability, while Ian Winter (Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute) called for more informed and constructive debate around the social objectives of land use planning. Other articles discussed reforms required in the areas of: tenancy rights, by Deborah Pippen, (Tenants’ Union ACT); housing for the elderly, by Susannah Sage Jacobson, (Public Interest Law Clearing House of Victoria); and the tensions that often arise in practice between providing housing and preserving heritage, by academic Graeme Wiffen.
An internship at the ALRC provides an opportunity for law students to increase their awareness of law reform issues and to gain an insight into the processes for developing policy and designing law reforms. Interns are supervised by legal officers and contribute to current inquiries as part of the inquiry teams, doing research, attending consultations and inquiry team meetings when opportunities arise. The ALRC accepts law students from Australian and international universities and tertiary institutions. As there is strong demand for internships at the ALRC, there is a formal selection process. The selection criteria, closing dates for applications, and information about the selection process are available on the ALRC website. During 2009–10, the ALRC received 100 applications for the internship program and accepted 16 interns. A report on the ALRC’s internship program is included in the special features section.
2009–10 Kirby Cup Law Reform Competition
The Kirby Cup Law Reform Competition is a unique opportunity for Australian law students to consider the role of law reform and law reform agencies in Australia. The format of the competition this year required law students to provide a written paper (between two and four thousand words) on a topic of law reform and present this paper at an oral advocacy round held in conjunction with the annual Australian Law Students Association (ALSA) conference. The competition is open to all students currently enrolled in a tertiary law course (including law courses offered by universities and legal practitioner admission boards). Students may participate in the competition as individuals or as a team of up to four students. The topic for this year’s competition was on animal rights and teams were asked to consider the key issues that arise from the present federal regulatory framework for animal welfare and the appropriate law reform recommendations. They were asked to assess whether Codes of Practice for animal welfare provide a reliable and satisfactory mechanism for regulating animal welfare; or whether a National Animal Welfare Act or harmonisation of state and territory legislation would be more appropriate.
The oral advocacy part of the competition was held during the annual ALSA Conference in July 2009 in Brisbane at Griffith University. Three teams of finalists were chosen including Ella Kucharova & Rebecca Zaman (University of New South Wales)—who won the competition—Fiona Graney & Laura Costello (University of Sydney) and James Dawson & Michael Jones (ANU). Judges for the competition were then ALRC Commissioner Professor Rosalind Croucher; Griffith University Senior Law Lecturer Mr Steven White; ALRC Research Manager Mr Jonathan Dobinson; and ALRC Part-time Commissioner Justice Berna Collier. Support for the Competition was provided by Executive Assistant, Ms Tina O’Brien.
Presentations and information sessions
ALRC members and staff are frequently invited to speak at conferences and seminars in relation to the ALRC’s current or past work program, or in relation to law reform in general and areas of particular expertise. In 2009–10, Commissioners and staff made presentations at 21 separate functions on behalf of the ALRC. A list of these presentations is provided in Appendix I.
The ALRC regularly hosts interstate and international visitors interested in discussing general law reform issues or particular issues relating to past or current ALRC inquiries. The ALRC hosts many visits from broad-based delegations of government officials and parliamentarians as well as visits by representatives of national and overseas law reform agencies. During 2009–10, the ALRC was pleased to host 13 visits. A list of visitors to the ALRC during this period is included in Appendix K.
On 28 June 2010, the ALRC hosted a delegation from the National Assembly of Vietnam. From left to right: ALRC Senior Legal Officer Ms Carolyn Adams; National Assembly Vice- President, The Hon Mr Uong Chu Luu MP; ALRC President Professor Rosalind Croucher; and National Assembly Chairman, the Hon Mr Tran The Vuong MP.