Academy of Law – access to justice, free speech on campus, science v law

The second public debate held by the Australian Academy of Law in its series on Access to Justice was held on 26 July 2018. Meanwhile, many other Academy talks and debates are coming up.

The focus of the 26 July debate was on overcoming financial barriers to access to justice. This involves not just money for the provision of legal services but also attention being given to means whereby the conduct of the law is made more efficient and cost effective. 

The debate covered the fact that the NSW legal aid rate for lawyers of $150 per hour has not changed in 10 years; that collective public interest matters can achieve justice for a global group, for example consumers adversely affected by an unsafe product; and that issues of justice are often mixed in with an individual’s other often medical or social problems.   There was also questioning whether the focus should be on the financial issues, rather on the need for the law to focus on the development of information technology in order to assess and deliver its services.   

The debate was chaired by Dr Warren Mundy, an economist who was the Presiding Commissioner on the 2014 Productivity Commission report on Access to Justice Arrangements.  How many of those recommendations have been implemented by government is another matter.

The panel comprised Michael Green SC, Doug Humphreys OAM (NSW Law Society), Anna Cody (UNSW Kingsford Legal Centre); and Jonathon Hunyor (Public Interest Advocacy Centre, PIAC).

A third and final Academy of Law debate on what we refer to as non-financial impediments to justice – language, geography, culture and more – is being planned for later this year.

Other events

Meanwhile, the Academy is hosting these further events:

  • Are you sure? A joint discussion between the lawyers and the scientists on methods and standards of proof in their respective fields – 23 August Sydney;
  • Free speech and the law on campus – the Eighth Austin Asche Oration in Law and Governance, 17 September, Darwin, being given by the Hon Robert French AC
  • Litigation funding: access and ethics, 4 October, Brisbane, being given by Hon Phillip Cummins AM, as chair of the Victorian Law Reform Commission which has published its Discussion Paper on “Access to Justice: Litigation Funding and Group Proceedings”.

Patron’s Address

And on 18 October, the Australian Academy of Laws’ seventh annual Patron’s Address will be delivered by The Rt. Honourable Dame Sian Elias, GNZM, Chief Justice of New Zealand: Back to the future? How local customs and traditions are still shaping our legal orders. The address will review directions for the future in what may be seen as a period of transitional justice. It is being delivered in Melbourne.

Details of all Academy events are on its website here.


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