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From the Dean

Erika TecheraIt is a great pleasure to present this latest edition of our Newsletter. We have much to celebrate with three Law School staff succeeding in their promotion applications: Alex Gardner to Professor, and Dr Natalie Skead and Dr Jill Howieson to Associate Professor. In addition to this staff success Associate Professor John Fiocco received an outstanding recognition being presented with the Law Council of Australia  "2015 Lawyer of the Year" Award. We have also farewelled a longstanding staff member, Judy Allen, who recently retired but will remain as an honorary fellow. One of our alumni, Luke Villiers was recently awarded the 2015 Frank Downing Scholarship and is now studying at the University of Cambridge. We are also very proud of our current students have enjoyed success in a expanded number of mooting competitions.

A number of staff have had success with grant applications including Professor Harry Blagg who has been awarded a 2016 ARC Discovery Project grant for the ‘Regulation of Indigenous Safety Strategies: Night Patrols & Policy’. Equally important are the grants received in the area of the scholarship of learning and teaching, including Natalie Skead, Tracey Atkins, Renae Barker, Penny Carruthers, Jill Howieson and Kate Offer who were successful in their application for an Education Futures Scholarship Program Grant.

Most recently, Dr Natalie Skead and Kate Offer have been recognised by the International Association of Law Schools (IALS). I travelled to Spain for the IALS Annual Conference and the biennial Global Law Deans Forum. At those events, as well as the International Bar Association (IBA) Academic Forum, a key focus was the future of the legal profession and in particular the disruption that will result from greater use of technology. I have been invited to join a new committee of the Law Council of Australia – the Legal Profession Futures Committee. I look forward to participating and exploring how our Law School must respond to prepare students to be lawyers of the future.

Back on campus we have recently hosted the 7th Transnational Commercial Law Teachers Conference which attracted high calibre speakers from around the world. Presentations were given over two days and video highlights will shortly be available online. The conference ended with a dinner event sponsored and hosted by Clayton Utz in their offices in Perth. We are most grateful for the support of Clayton Utz, not only for the dinner itself but for providing the opportunity for our visitors to interact with key members of the profession and discuss key issues and updates in transnational commercial law field.

As always we proud of the achievements of our staff and students, and grateful for the assistance of our alumni and supporters. I hope you enjoy reading our latest newsletter.

Professor Erika J Techera, FAAL Dean of Law

ARC Grant Success: Indigenous Night Patrols

Professor Harry Blagg

Law School Professor Harry Blagg, together with Dr Thalia Anthony from the University of Technology Sydney and Professor Juanita Sherwood from the University of Sydney, has been successful in winning a prestigious 2016 Category One Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Project Grant.

The success in the highly competitive grant process will provide funding to conduct research of the highest calibre. The project, entitled ‘Regulation of Indigenous Safety Strategies: Night Patrols & Policy’ aims to identify the qualities that make Indigenous night patrols (NPs) unique, to inform and improve the capacities of agencies and regulatory authorities and indigenous communities to work together, leading to greater security, peace and safety.

The team will investigate the effect of increased ‘top-down’ control and regulation of NPs which have become key players in local crime reduction strategies. In particular, it will study whether greater accountability to government weakens NP’s ‘cultural’ accountability to communities as well as exploring the qualities that make NPs unique. This includes the prominent, and neglected, role of Indigenous women as patrollers and clients, who may lose out should NPs become like mainstream community safety mechanisms.

Photo: Professor Harry Blagg

UWA Law Student take Law Student of the Year two years running

For the second year in a row a UWA Law Student has won the Lawyers Weekly Law Student of the Year award. LLB honours student Benjamin Tomasi was chosen from an impressive group of eight finalists from across the country. The Law Student of the Year category recognises the academic, community and legal achievements of undergraduates.

Ben is a student editor of the UWA Law Review, has successfully competed in international mooting competitions and is employed as a professional assistant at the State Solicitor’s Office WA.

Ben is also on the board of a community legal centre, Street Law Centre WA, which provides free legal advice to those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Ben follows in the steps of fellow UWA student Rachel Lee who won Law Student of the year for 2014 in recognition for her work towards the protection of children, and addressing issues including homelessness, gender bias and equal opportunity.

Passion for teaching recognised

Kate Offer receives awardAssistant Professor Kate Offer’s passion for teaching and innovation in how she teaches law has been recognised with a Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning from the Federal Education Department’s Office of Learning and Teaching  (OLT). The award recognises those who have made a significant contribution to the student learning over a sustained period.

Kate could not be more delighted with the award, “It’s really nice,” she said. “The people I know who have gotten this award in the past are people I really admire. It’s a pretty good feeling to be up there with them.”
Professor Erika Techera, Dean of UWA Law School praised Kate’s consistent commitment, enthusiasm and a passion for highly effective innovation to increase student engagement. "She's constantly exploring novel ideas and new opportunities to engage students and enhance their learning experience."

Every year Kate sets herself a challenge to do at least one ‘big’ experiment to improve how she influences, motivates and inspires her students. For example, in 2013, Kate wanted to demonstrate the inherent unreliability of eye-witness accounts for her Semester 2 Evidence unit, so she staged a live demonstration of a ‘crime’ at the beginning of a lecture. Mitch Tatum, at the time the President of Blackstone (the UWA Law Students’ Society), was in on the experiment and started the lecture with a short announcement about the Law Ball. Suddenly, he was accosted by four engineering students who, with much ruckus, dragged him outside.

“As a Torts teacher, I knew it couldn’t look too real,” recalled Kate, laughing. “I didn’t want anyone to freak out or call triple-0, so we deliberately made it a bit cartoonish. But I remember thinking at the time that those engineers were a bit errr ... enthusiastic when they bundled Mitch out!”

With Mitch ‘abducted’, Kate then put up a slide asking the students to act as eye-witnesses and identify Mitch’s ‘assailants’. “It was a great way to illustrate how unreliable eye-witness accounts can be. I asked questions about the offenders’ hair colour, their height, what they were wearing, what they did, if they spoke… The wide variety of responses to those questions really hammered the point home,” said Kate.

Kate was awarded her citation by Senator the Hon. Dean Smith.  at a ceremony at Fraser’s in Kings Park which was attended by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Paul Johnson; Deputy Vice Chancellor of Education, Professor Alec Cameron; Dean of Coursework Studies, Professor Grady Venville, and Professor Sally Sandover from the Centre for Education Futures.

Photo: Assistant Professor Kate Offer receiving her citation from Senator the Hon. Dean Smith

UWA Law Students achieve success in expanded mooting program

2015 Kirby Moot Team
2015 has marked another successful year of external mooting at UWA featuring an expanded program along with team and individual success for our students.This was the third year that UWA has entered the Kirby Contract Law Moot, held each year at Victoria University. 2015 was by far the largest competition to date with 30 teams from 18 Universities. UWA’s team, consisting of Alexander Cook, Alison Ho, Charmaine Roughley and Richard Shugrue coached by Dr Renae Barker, continued the Law School’s tradition of success in this competition ranking second after the General Rounds and making it through to the quarter finals where they were narrowly defeated by Victoria University Team A. Special congratulations also go to Alison Ho and Richard Shugrue who both received an honourable mentions in the Best Speaker in the General Rounds category.  

UWA expanded its mooting program this year entering both the Sir Harry Gibbs Constitutional Law Moot and the Baker & McKenzie National Women’s Moot for the first time.

The Gibbs moot team, consisting of Chris Burch, Ciara O’Laughlin and Matheo Vinviullo coached by Dr Murray Wesson, travelled to Melbourne University where they competed against 13 other teams.  At the end of the General Rounds the team were ranked third and progressed to the quarterfinals where they were knocked out by the Australian National University.  Congratulations go especially to Chris Burch who was announced at the Gala dinner as the runner-up Best Speaker in the General Rounds.

The Women’s Moot team, consisting of Amy Saunders, Sasha Dawson and Shannon Ziegelaar coached by Dr Tamara Tullich, competed against 7 other teams from around Australia at Sydney University. The team were ranked equal fourth after the General Rounds and were unlucky not to progress to the knockouts stages of the competition.
All of the student mooters are to be commended for their hard work, dedication and collegiality throughout the preparation for and participation in the moot competitions.   Special thanks are also due to the UWA staff, members of the Blackstone Executive and external friends of mooting at UWA for their continued support of mooting. We will be back again next year and will continue to build upon the mooting success for which UWA has become known.

Participation in moots is made possible by the support we receive from donors and sponsors. We are fortunate to have many alumni and ‘friends of the Law School’ who give their time to judge practice moots but we do not currently receive any financial support for these moots which all involve interstate travel. We are seeking donors and sponsors to allow UWA Law School teams to continue to participate in these competitions. All sponsors are promoted through our web pages, printed progams and acknowledgement at mooting functions. More information on supporting student mooters.

Photo: 2015 Kirby Moot Team (L-R), Richard Shugrue, Alison Ho, Renae Barker, Charmaine Roughley & Alexander Cook

Profile: Alumna Claire Whisker, from LLB to business founder

Claire WhiskerAlumna Claire Whisker (BA, LLB 1996) recently caught up with Dean Erika Techera and fellow graduates at the London UWA reunion, we asked her to share her journey from her studies at UWA to her current position as Co-Founder and Director of Veeve.com.

I completed my Articles and worked for Phillips Fox (now DLA Piper) for a few years, in the Commercial Dispute Resolution group. I moved to London for a role with Reynolds Porter Chamberlain and worked in their Insurance team for a couple of years.  I took a role in-house at a small company, with a view to learning the ropes before setting up my own business.  I stayed longer than I expected – 7 years – and moved from my legal role and to ultimately become the Commercial Director. The business was bought by a PLC and I stayed on and headed up their Sales function for a couple of years. 

All of this was wonderful experience for when I set up my own business at the start of 2011.  We started veeve.com with the London 2012 Olympics in mind and the vision of making home sharing as easy as possible, with a full service offering for homeowners.  We received venture capital funding last year and we have significantly grown the business with 2 offices and a team of around 80.

Our home rental company now manages a portfolio of over 1,000 properties in central London, and we welcome guests from around the world… we had a  former law tutor stay last summer and, this Christmas, we’re welcoming a chap who’s at Francis Burt chambers and who was a few years ahead of me at Law School.  I remember my time at Law School with great fondness, in particular, the sunshine and the sound of the peacocks, as well as many of the great characters who took lectures and tutorials; I will always have time for UWA friends and colleagues.

Photo: Claire Whisker

Law School to host UNCITRAL Asia and Pacific Day

Luca CastellaniTo mark the anniversary of the establishment of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) the Law School act as host for the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Asia and Pacific Day on Thursday, 10 December.

The day will include a free public lecture by Mr Luca Castellani, Legal Officer of UNCITRAL, where he will discuss the work of the Commission. Following the lecture there will be a symposium on the subject of New Uniform Laws for Western Australia: Arbitration, Sales and Electronic Transactions, which will attract CPD points.  More information.

Photo: Mr Luca Castellani, Legal Officer of UNCITRAL

International Engagement - Dean Erika Techera

2015 London Alumni ReceptionEarlier in the year I attended the conference of the European Law Faculties Association (of which we are an associate member) in Turkey and gave a keynote address on ‘Internationalisation and Research Collaboration: an Australian Perspective’. The event provided a fantastic opportunity to share experiences and showcase the work of UWA Law School. During October I travelled to Europe and the US for a series of events. I attended the International Bar Association (IBA) Annual Conference and participated in a number of sessions, but more importantly the Academic Forum. The latter was well-attended by Australian academics all seeking to contribute to 'Closing the gap between legal education and practice'.


UWA hosted several events for alumni in the UK and US. In London I participated in the Friends of UWA in UK and Europe Alumni Dinner which provided the opportunity to engage with a number of Law School alumni including John Atkins, Simon Johnston, Chris Mallon, Jeremy Sher, Shane Gleghorn, Christine Scholes, Jacquie Nelson, Amy Kho, Jennifer Johnson, Andrew Lodder, Roland Nattrass and Mark Simpson amongst others. The UWA London Reception included a larger group and focused on the Indigenous journey – past present and future. The evening was MC’d by UWA Law School alumna Andrea Coomber. I also hosted a Law School breakfast attended by a small group of alumni including Jacquie McArthur, Aaron McDonald, Elizabeth Houghton, Alaina Newnes as well as Chris Kelsall, Claire Whisker and Beth Ngyuen. We enjoyed a more intimate discussion and it was wonderful to hear about the range of careers and interesting journeys of Law School graduates. All of our alumni I spoke with remain committed to the Law School, offering to give guest lectures and host roundtable discussions when they are in Perth and also acting as a contact point for more recent graduates travelling to the UK.

I also attended the UWA Alumni event in Washington DC hosted by UWA in America Inc. The dinner was held in the US Capitol and featured a panel of speakers including Perth US Asia Director Gordon Flake, focusing on ‘Innovation, international security and investment: the Australia-US alliance in the Indo-Pacific Era’. The evening ended with an engaging presentation by the Hon Kim Beazley AC, Ambassador to the US. It was attended by Law School alumna Dr Sarah Beshar who was awarded an honorary doctorate earlier this year. Whilst I was in Washington I had the opportunity to lead a roundtable discussion at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on ‘Piracy, Fishing and Human trafficking’ – a short interview can be accessed at http://amti.csis.org/an-interview-with-erika-techera-university-of-western-australia-dean-of-law/.

The International Association of Law Schools (IALS) conference and the biennial Global Law Deans Forum was hosted by IE University in Madrid and Segovia. As indicated earlier, topics of discussion included key challenges facing law deans and law schools, including how to predict the future legal profession our graduates will need to work within and the approaches to teaching ‘millennials’. Both events provided an outstanding opportunity to network with other law deans and to share experiences and expertise. It was also a pleasure to see Kate Offer receive the Faculty Innovative Curriculum Award on behalf of herself and Dr Natalie Skead.

Most recently I participated with Professor Stephen Smith in a UWA panel discussion in Indonesia entitled ‘Fish don’t know boundaries’ and met with alumni, colleagues from Indonesian universities, and other connections in Jakarta. The event was great success and allowed us to showcase multi-disciplinary expertise to advance the Blue Economy.

Photo: Dean Erika Techera at the London Alumni Reception