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Welcome from the Dean, Assoc/Prof Natalie Skead

Dean - Assoc/Prof Natalie SkeadWelcome to Obiter Dicta, UWA Law School’s biannual newsletter. 2017 has heralded significant changes for the Law School. As part of the UWA Renewal and Restructure, UWA Law School is now one of seven Schools within the Faculty of Arts, Business, Law and Education (ABLE). This restructure presents many exciting opportunities for collaborations and partnerships across ABLE, in relation to research, teaching and engagement with the community. I am honoured to have been entrusted with the leadership of the Law School as we write the next important chapter in our long and proud history.

As the Law School enters its 90th year and we reflect on its long tradition of outstanding legal education and research, we can all be justly proud. As custodians of this tradition, and with law and the legal profession facing an increasingly disrupted and uncertain future, it is critical that the Law School responds swiftly and creatively to ensure our graduates are equipped for a productive and meaningful future in law. At the same time we must continue to uphold the rule of law, and promote the highest standards of justice, ethical conduct, professional responsibility, and community service.

I look forward to working with my colleagues, our students, alumni and the broader legal community in achieving these goals and shaping the Law School as we look ahead to our centenary.

Celebrating 90 years of legal excellence

The UWA Law School was established in 1927 and welcomed its first cohort of law students in 1928. From July 2017-June 2018 we will be celebrating the past 90 years with a series of exciting events that reflect the breadth and cultural reach of law and align with areas of synergy and focus on our new Faculty structure.

The Law School’s 90th anniversary celebrations were launched at Dean’s Drinks in the beautiful Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery on 22 June. It was wonderful to connect with so many of our alumni. In July and August the focus was on Law and … Art with the first formal event of the year-long anniversary activities, the Art in Law in Art Conference held in the Perth Cultural Centre at the Art Gallery of Western Australia from 4-5 July. To get involved or attend one of our exciting events see: www.law.uwa.edu.au/90th-anniversary#upcoming-events

We see our 90th anniversary as the perfect opportunity to not only celebrate what has come before, but also to ask our alumni, friends and community: what sort of Law School would you like us to be at our 100th birthday, and how can we partner with you to ensure we continue to enjoy the respect and support of the community we serve? We invite you to contribute to our 90 year narrative and to help shape our future at: www.law.uwa.edu.au/90th-anniversary#our-90-year-narrative

A new look for the Law Library

As part of our 90th anniversary celebration, part of the ground floor of the Law Library has been refurbished. This refurbishment is Stage 1 of a comprehensive refurbishment that we hope to undertake over the coming years. Integral to the Stage 1 refurbishment will be the installation of text- and graphic-based artworks reflecting and celebrating the Noongar history of the Law School designed and created by Dr Richard Walley OAM.

Teaching news

The UWA Juris Doctor

In 2012, with a view to preparing graduates for the new challenges of the modern world, the University introduced a new course structure. Under this structure, professional degrees moved to postgraduate level and the Law School introduced the Juris Doctor (JD).  With a focus on equipping graduates with legal skills at an advanced level, the three year JD is a Masters level professional law degree recognised nationally and internationally.

The JD reflects the Law School’s commitment to excellence, integrity and inclusivity in student learning through a diverse and inspiring range of option units, teaching methods and learning environments. With a focus on legal professionalism, through our JD we aim to produce students who are both civically and globally responsible and work-ready through:

  • Aligning the doctrinal, the practical and the critical;
  • Embedding the intersection of formal knowledge, vocational exploration and development, and a commitment to the common good, into our teaching;
  • Linking the interests of law students and legal educators with the needs of legal practitioners and with the needs of the public;
  • Providing students with a broad education, preparing them for the profession and giving them ethical autonomy and the courage to act upon it; and
  • Delivering an integrated curriculum and teaching practice.

As high achieving graduates, our JD students are more mature and enter their law studies with strong foundational academic skills. “Through a carefully designed curriculum that ensures the integrated, co-ordinated and progressive development of legal knowledge and skills across the degree we are able to ensure that our JD students graduate with advanced and finely honed legal skills” explains A/Prof Natalie Skead, Dean of the UWA Law School.

Because our JD students study law only, a closer and more cohesive student group is fostered, creating greater scope to forge strong friendships and networks throughout the degree.

The first cohort of JD students graduated in March 2016.  Graduate destination surveys have shown that UWA Law Students continue to have an exceptionally high success rate in obtaining graduate employment.  The JD continues the Law School’s tradition of producing well-rounded, work- and client-ready graduates who are equipped with the skills and professional capabilities required of a lawyer in today’s ever changing legal landscape.


The full impact of technology on legal practice is still emerging but it’s clear that the legal profession is currently at a rapidly approaching watershed moment. As educators we must think about what changes need to be made in order to better train graduates of the future, what sort of skills future lawyers will need and consequently, what we teach, how we teach it and the skills that we embed into the law degree.

The newly created Director of Disruption role aims to address these concerns. The Director, Kate Offer, has a number of responsibilities, which are predominantly focussed on bringing new ‘disruptive’ teaching modalities into the Law School.

One of the first priorities of the role is reviewing teaching and learning practices within the School (noting that there is already a lot of innovation taking place) and then exploring, developing and working with staff to implement new and innovative teaching and learning practices, in collaboration with the UWA Centre for Education Futures. The Director of Disruption also reports to the School on matters relating to legal education pedagogy, in particular in regards to digital literacies and technology. This is facilitated by the email newsletter, ‘The Weekly Disruption’ where each Friday, Law School staff are sent links to interesting and through-provoking articles or talks, as well as being kept up-to-date on what’s happening in this space in the Law School.

The role also involves coordinating the School's Occasional Learning and Teaching Conversations program and coordinating the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Law (SoTL@UWA) research hub., as well as our major initiative for this year; the inaugural Western Australian Teachers of Law (WAToL) Conference, which brought together teachers of Law and Law Librarians from the five Western Australian Universities in July.

As a Law School, we want to equip our students for an increasingly digitised and unbundled profession by introducing digital technologies into the classroom and giving students the opportunity to engage with these tools.  Creating a role specifically designed to do this is a way to ensure skills needed by graduates are at the forefront of our teaching.

Indigenous graduates

Law graduates celebrateA record number of Indigenous students from graduated from the Law School this year: Dylan Collard, Stephanie Councillor, Angela Crombie, Kelsi Forrest, Katja Gvozdenovic and Micah Kickett. UWA Director, Student Services Marilyn Strother from The School of Indigenous Studies, said it was wonderful to see so many Aboriginal students graduating as lawyers: “I have no doubt that these young people will make a significant contribution to the community," she said. "They are likely to work in varied fields and will be viewed as very positive role models by Aboriginal communities and Aboriginal people aspiring to become lawyers.”

New graduate Dylan Collard said the students had supported each other through their studies so it was special to celebrate their graduation together. “I think it’s only the beginning of what will hopefully be the norm eventually, Aboriginal people graduating from law and all other degrees,” he said.

Kelsi Forrest said her achievement was one that she would always hold dearly. "As a Noongar person, I've always been strongly aware of the justice issues our people face, including high incarceration rates," she said. "When it came to choosing a career I always thought law would be a great option and I was lucky enough to get through the Aboriginal pre-law program run by the UWA School of Indigenous Studies.

"Since then I've had experience working with legal organisations such as Legal Aid and the Attorney General's Office in Canberra and now I'm working for a firm in Native Title. "It's pretty special, especially the fact there are four of us graduating that are Noongar people from the south coast of Western Australia."

Higher Degrees by Coursework

The Director of Higher Degrees (Coursework), A/Prof Jill Howieson, co-ordinates, advises, plans and promotes the Higher Degree courses in the Law School including the LLM, Masters by Coursework courses, and Graduate Diplomas.

In 2016, the role involved several planning sessions with a view to reviewing and consolidating the Law School’s Higher Degree offerings.  In 2017, Jill has undertaken two major projects in this role.

The first project, with Narelle Molloy, involves a review and mapping of ABLE’s postgraduate courses.  Jill and Narelle identified that there are synergies and crossovers between many of the postgraduate courses that ABLE offers.  To avoid duplication, and to capitalise on the multi-disciplinary and unique nature of ABLE, they have undertaken a mapping exercise to provide a clear picture of the courses that ABLE currently offers and areas of convergence. The mapping exercise is a first step towards designing courses that are viable, sustainable, attractive to students (domestic and international), and in harmony with the aims, values and goals of the University as a whole.

The second project took place in May 2017 when Jill travelled to India to promote and raise awareness of the Law School’s postgraduate courses at the Indian National Bar Association’s (INBA) LLM Fair.  The two Fairs in New Delhi and Bangalore attracted over 500 potential postgraduate students who were informed of the Law School’s offerings and encouraged to apply.  Jill worked with Rutwik Pungliya, UWA’s Regional Manager, Future Students, in India.  The highlight of the trip was the institutional visits to National Law University, Delhi (NLUD), National Law School of India University, Bangalore and the University of Delhi Law School.

Student achievements

The Blackstone Society Careers Handbook, sponsored by Herbert Smith Freehills, was awarded the 2017 Australian Law Students’ Association Best Careers Publication at the Australian Law Students’ Association July Conference. This award is chosen out of the Careers Publications across the nation's Law Student Societies.

Kenneth Chen was selected to present a paper at the International Forum for Law School Students at Renmin University.

Ciara Glennon Memorial Law Scholarship

Linda Nguyen ceremonyIn a moving ceremony held on 23 May in the beautiful Prescott Room, the Honourable Wayne Martin AC, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Western Australia, and Mr Denis Glennon presented the Ciara Glennon Memorial Scholarship to Linda Nguyen, a second-year JD student with a strong commitment to achieving social justice.

The daughter of Vietnamese migrant parents, Linda mentors primary and high school refugee students and volunteers within the Vietnamese community. She has also worked as a volunteer for community groups and charities, including EdConnect, St Vincent de Paul, STYLEAID and the Loftus Community Child Care Centre.

The Ciara Glennon Memorial Scholarship was established at UWA in 1998 following the death of lawyer Ciara Glennon, and is sponsored by Ashurst (formerly Blake Dawson), the law firm where Ms Glennon worked. Past winners of the Ciara Glennon Scholarship include 2003 Rhodes Scholar Ben Gauntlett and 2010 Rhodes Scholar at Large Jessica Panegyres.     

Research news

Over the last 6 months Law School researchers have investigated a wide variety of legal problems from how to shape intellectual property rights to help feed the world and avoid food waste, to ending slavery and to rethinking legal education. In doing so, they have published widely nationally and internationally. A particular highlight was a public lecture delivered by the Hon Robert French AC on ‘U.S. Influence on the Australian Legal System’ on Monday, 10 April.

There have been a number of projects that have had, and will continue to have, significant impact. Fiona McGaughey, Holly Cullen and Murray Wesson made a submission to the Inquiry on Freedom of Speech in Australia and were invited to give evidence. The Inquiry was concerned with ss 18C and 18D of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth). The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights report makes a number of references to Fiona, Holly and Murray’s submission and evidence:

In addition, Sarah Murray, Harry Blagg and Suzie May have been investigating the establishment of a Community Justice Centre in Western Australia, with the aim of improving people’s interactions with the justice system and reducing recidivism. An inaugural roundtable was held in May at the Institute for Advanced Studies with a range of WA stakeholders along with the ex-Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls, Emeritus Prof Arie Freiberg and the Collingwood Neighbourhood Justice Centre Magistrate, David Fanning.

Centre for Indigenous Peoples and Community Justice

On 9th May the Law School launched the Centre for Indigenous Peoples and Community Justice. With Professor Harry Blagg as the Centre’s Director, the Centre will engage with Indigenous peoples and organisations across the state and Australia, researchers, policy makers, and academics to develop solution-focused research initiatives that have the potential to increase Indigenous community participation and reduce excessive contact between Indigenous communities and the mainstream justice system.  Working with an Aboriginal Reference Group and Law School academics including Adjunct A/Prof Victoria Horvane, Dr Tamara Tulich, A/Prof Hilde Tubex, A/Prof Sarah Murray, Dr Dylan Lino, Dr Jade Lindley and a team of interns the Centre will be working on projects including diversionary alternatives for Aboriginal youth with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) and from police custody, Night Patrols, Community Justice Centres and Family Violence.  The Centre is committed to outcome-based solutions and research-based advocacy with a focus on partnering with communities throughout the life-cycle of projects.

Research grant success

Professor Michael Blakeney, together with collaborators from UWA, Monash University, the University of Newcastle and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London was awarded $257,000 by the Australian Research Council for a Discovery Grant to look at “Food security and the governance of local knowledge in India and Indonesia”. This project aims to discover how local farming communities’ practical knowledge can improve food security.

Jill Howieson, Robyn Carroll, Sarah Murray, Ian Murray were awarded a grant for their project 'Family Violence and Property Disputes: A pilot research project’, from the Law Society’s Public Purposes Trust.

Natalie Skead and the Smart Casual project team (Mark Israel, Mary Heath, Anne Hewitt, Kate Galloway and Alex Steel), received funding for their project 'Teaching for diversity, equality, respect and inclusion: Enhancing the capacities of sessional teachers in all Western Australian law schools’, from the Law Society’s Public Purposes Trust.

Natalie Skead, Hilde Tubex, Sarah Murray, Tamara Tulich were awarded a Criminology Research Grant from the Australian Institute of Criminology for the project ‘Pocketing the Proceeds of Crime: The Legislation, Criminological Perspectives and Experiences’.

Camilla Andersen was awarded industry funding from Aurecon for her project: ‘Advancing comic book contracts’.

Ian Murray and Joe Fardin received industry funding for category 3 grant for their project: ‘Indigenous Benefits Management Structures Review’.

Harry Blagg, Tamara Tulich, Raewyn Mutch and Victoria Hovane, received funding from the Commonwealth Health Department for the project ‘FASD and the Criminal Justice System’.

Stella Tarrant was awarded an ANROWS grant for her project ‘Transforming the Australian Judiciary’s Understanding of Intimate Partner Violence’.

Law School spotlight

Meet Senior Lecturer, Dr Marilyn Bromberg

Senior Lecturer Dr Marilyn BrombergWhat do you teach at the Law School?

I am the unit coordinator and Lecturer of Law in Action (Law and Society) and the unit coordinator, lecturer and tutor of Procedure (JD).

What research projects are you currently undertaking?

Young people can experience serious negative health impacts from consuming energy drinks. I am part of a research team that received a grant from the Telethon-Perth Children's Hospital Research Fund in 2016. The funds are being used to survey Western Australians aged 12 - 17 to learn about their energy drink consumption. This information will be used to create policy and practice guidelines to reduce the amount of energy drinks that young people drink.

Another one of my research areas is Body Image Law. I recently wrote a journal article with Tomas Fitzgerald on the laws regarding pro-anorexia websites. Pro-anorexia websites encourage people to become anorexic. If they are already anorexic, it encourages them to continue to be that way. France has passed a law that could send the people who create these websites to jail. However, the people who create these websites are usually suffering from severe eating disorders themselves.

I am currently working with some other researchers on a new journal article on electronic cigarettes. Electronic cigarettes are devices that heat liquid that use batteries. Many people use e-cigarettes as an alternative to traditional cigarettes. The current legislation in Australia regarding e-cigarettes is quite contentious and the Federal Government recently announced an inquiry into this issue.

Lastly, I am co-authoring an article about the ethical obligations of lawyers regarding social media use. My PhD was on the topic of how social media impacts upon the courts, so I have been fortunate to research this topic for about six years.

What do you love about being an academic?

I love being able to inspire, engage and learn from amazing students consistently. I also love being able to choose research topics that I find fascinating and that have the potential to create law reform. Plus, I love the administrative part of being an academic, for example, being responsible for the Law School's social media engagement. I'm grateful that there's a wonderful amount of variety in academic work. I also love being able to create new arguments or ideas that to the best of my knowledge never existed before, such as giving a name to the developing area of law that requires models to have a minimum BMI and requires images to contain a warning if they were photoshopped. Another researcher and I gave a name to this developing area of law - Body Image Law.

You are responsible for the Law School’s Social Media engagement, what is the best way for Alumni and current students to link in with this?

Alumni and students can like the Law School's Facebook page and post comments, like posts, etc. They can also follow the Law School's Twitter page and retweet posts. If anyone has any information that they would like me to post on the Law School's social media pages or if they have any questions, they are welcome to contact me.

What are your aspirations for the Law School in the lead up to the 100th Anniversary?

I am fortunate to be able to share my thoughts as a Law School alumni and one of its current staff members. I hope that there are even more outstanding graduates of the Law School. I also hope that its staff continue to inspire even more exceptional students and create research that makes valuable contributions to the law and legal education.

Meet PhD student, Michael Montalto

PhD student Michael MontaltoMichael, how would you describe your research?

My research is looking at how personality traits can better target rehabilitation programs for offenders.

Can you tell us how you will be doing this?

I’ll be conducting the HEXACO-PI-R (a personality measure) on a sample of offenders within Australia, ex-offenders within Australia and offenders within the Czech Republic. I will use these findings, and established personality and treatment efficacy literature, to help determine targeted rehabilitation programs for offenders based on their type of criminal offence.

What has been great about coming to UWA Law?

I have really enjoyed meeting so many new people and everybody has been so helpful and just amazing. The day I arrived I was greeted with a true sense of fellowship and warmth. Also, I really am a fan of the campus, with the Sunken Garden being one of my favourite areas to read.

What advice would you offer prospective PhD Students?

My advice would be to make sure you are doing a topic you are passionate about. Also, make sure you and your supervisors are a good match is essential as they will be the ones who are guiding you through the process of a PhD. Finally, at some point or another, we all need a break, someone to vent to, or just a smile to get us through the day, don’t be afraid to talk to people or ask for help along the way.

Meet our alumni, Andrea Coomber

Alumna - Andrea CoomberWhen you were about to graduate from university, what were your career plans?

I left university without any play beyond doing articles and getting admitted to practice.  In one of my Trusts tutorials in third year, Jim O’Donovan delivered a ‘fire side chat’ about our future in the law, where he suggested that a career was something best reflected upon rather than planned.  While I didn’t do very well in Trusts, I have pretty much lived this advice ever since. You couldn’t plan a career like the one I’ve had.

What are you doing now and what has been your career path?

For the last four years I have been the Director of a very old British law reform and human rights organisation called JUSTICE, which is a constant challenge and enormous privilege.  We work with politicians, senior judges and civil servants to find ways to make the justice system in the UK – civil, criminal and administrative – more accessible, fair and efficient.  For the 17 years before I joined JUSTICE, I worked as an international human rights lawyer.  After qualifying at Minters, I moved to India where I worked on execution and torture cases for a couple of years, followed by a stint in Geneva working in the UN system and a Masters in Public International Law at the London School of Economics.  I then spent ten years doing international human rights litigation at a London-based NGO called INTERIGHTS, which focussed on cases before the European Court of Human Rights, the African Commission and Court and the UN treaty bodies.  I started working on equality cases – rape, domestic violence, race/LGBT/disability discrimination – and ended up the Legal Director, overseeing work on issues as diverse as denials of the right to education, human trafficking and rendition.  Enormously rewarding work, but ultimately too much travel to sustain with a small child, so I was lucky to be approached for the job at JUSTICE.

What is your favourite memory from Law School?

I was lucky enough to be at university at a time when everyone got jobs and so Law School was largely about having fun, with a bit of study on the side.  My friends and I one afternoon arranged an ‘Admin Wine and Cheese’ where we sat in the mezzanine level of the Administrative Law lecture with goblets of red wine and a cheese board.  Our lecturer, Stan Hotop was a bit baffled, but accepted the wine on offer nonetheless.

What are your aspirations for the Law School in the lead up to the 100th Anniversary?

I hope that the Law School can position itself at the forefront of promoting law and careers in law as a social good.  Lawyers get such a bad rap, and yet law can be a very powerful vehicle for social change.  I’d hope students could not just being given opportunities for ‘do-gooding’ courses and community engagement, but be offered the tools and creative space to reimagine how the justice system could work differently in the service of ordinary people.

Staff news

We are delighted to have welcomed a number of new staff to the Law School:

  • Dr Marilyn Bromberg
  • Prof Rick Krever
  • Dr Felicity Maher
  • Fiona McGaughey
  • Andrew Hanna – has a short term contract before heading to off to Oxford on a scholarship to undertake his BCL
  • Liam Elphick
  • Beatrice Hamilton
  • Dr Jade Linley

We are also very pleased to announce the following Adjunct appointments:

  • The Honourable Mr. Robert French AC, the former Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia - Adjunct Professor of the UWA School.
  • Jerome Doraisamy – Adjunct Lecturer
  • Victoria Hovane – Adjunct Associate Professor
  • Chris Ryder – Adjunct Associate Professor

UWA Law student volunteers help Law Access to succeed

UWA law student volunteer Emily Taylor Principal Lawyer Katrina Williams and Jackson McDonald secondee lawyer Nicole BurnsSince 1 July 2015, Law Access, which is hosted by the UWA Law School, has reviewed and advised on almost 1000 applications for pro bono assistance.

Law Access receives requests for assistance from all over the State, and in all areas of the law, matching those who will most benefit from legal assistance, with lawyers willing to provide pro bono assistance.   The service allows scarce pro bono resources to be utilised in the most effective way possible, benefiting applicants, the profession and the community.

Law student volunteers and interns provide essential paralegal support for our part time staff and secondee lawyers. Thirty-nine law students have volunteered or interned with Law Access since we have been at the UWA Law School.

UWA Law School academics are also assisting Law Access to implement our research agenda. Our first cross- institutional research project led by Associate Professor Jill Howieson of UWA examines unmet legal need in the area of domestic violence and family law property settlements.

Law Access thanks the many UWA Alumni who take Law Access referrals.

To find out how you can get involved, please visit our website www.lawaccess.net.au  or drop in and visit us next time you are on campus.

Pictured L-R UWA law student volunteer Emily Taylor, Principal Lawyer Katrina Williams and Jackson McDonald secondee lawyer Nicole Burns.      

Connect with us

If you have changed your details, have news to share or have not been in touch in a while please drop us a line at: www.law.uwa.edu.au/90th-anniversary#connect-with-us

We are collating 90 things to celebrate as the UWA Law School turns 90 – and 90 things we can do together to make the Law School and legal community even better by the time we turn 100 – be part of the 90th anniversary story at: www.law.uwa.edu.au/90th-anniversary#90-reasons-to-celebrate