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. To enter, law students must provide a written paper (between 2,000 and 4,000 words) on a topic of law reform.

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 ALRC publishes the winning entry on the ALRC’s website. Winners also have their names engraved on the perpetual Kirby Cup, which was donated by the Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG, a former Justice of the High Court of Australia and the first Chairperson of the ALRC.

The topic for the competition in 2010 was:

The Honourable Justice Michael Kirby AC CMG a former Justice of the High Court of Australia and the first Chairperson of the ALRC has said that: ‘law reform is much too important to be left to the experts’. Please discuss the importance of consultation to the law reform process, using at least one Australian Law Reform Commission inquiry as an example.

The winners of the 2010 Kirby Cup were Israel Cowen and Adam Delacorn from Monash University. Their paper, entitled Consultation and Law Reform: A civic conversation building ownership of the law, argued that consultation is important to the law reform process as it introduces civic conversation—a concept central to democratic processes—into law making. Through such a process, it was argued, the law can be reformed in a manner that both reflects the collective will of citizens and manifests the consent of the governed, both of which are fundamental to the maintenance of the rule of law. Further, through widespread consultation in the law reform process, not only do those affected by the law develop a sense of ownership of the law, but the resulting law reform also stands a higher chance of enactment and acceptance.

Their essay explored the importance of consultation in law making and reform, based on objectives and notions that underpin society and government. Following an analysis of the capacity of established arms of government to achieve those objectives, certain constraints were highlighted in order to further demonstrate the importance of consultation through law reform inquiries. The essay also discussed the benefits of consultation to the law reform process using examples of ALRC inquiries, including Essentially Yours and Recognition of Aboriginal Customary Laws. The essay concluded with comments on the future of consultation in law reform.

The Kirby Cup is one way that the ALRC continues to educate the community about the importance of law reform and illustrates the best practice approach to ensure that this reform is relevant and effective.

‘ALRC consultation documents and, in particular, the ALRC’s final reports are frequently referenced in student and academic work, as well as used as recommended course materials at this University. This is because there is great synergy between the work of law reform agencies and legal education.’

Submission by Macquarie University Law School to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee Inquiry into the ALRC.