Alternative Law Journal:
an Australian, refereed law journal

Welcome to the Alternative Law Journal! Here you can sample our journal with free previews (under the ‘News & Views’ menu). To purchase the full journal — with our signature mix of legal news, opinions, articles, as well as regular columns, art and cartoons — please visit our subscription page.

The AltLJ, focusing on

  •  social justice, human rights and law reform
  •  critique of the legal system
  •  developments in alternative practice
  •  community legal education


40(4) Laws and Liberties

  • Crime and punishment
  • Precarious pathways
  • Sentient beings

Free Content:


Law & Culture

Sit Down Girlie

The Last Word

The legal status of animals: The world rethinks its position

Geeta Shyam

animal-legal-status-skneebone-smThe world rethinks its position

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.


Animals are legally categorised as property in Australia, a legacy of the common law system that Australia inherited from Britain. Since then, however, scientific, philosophical and cultural views about animals have changed. It is thus sensible to reconsider the appropriateness of the property status of animals.

This article concludes that the justification for classifying animals as property is weak and it is therefore timely to initiate a dialogue about alternative legal classifications of animals in Australia. In particular, this article explores the lessons Australia might learn from developments in other countries, to ensure that the most effective mechanisms are adopted.

(2015) 40(4) AltLJ 266


600,000 disclosures of telecommunications data in one year

Leanne O'Donnell

It is annual report season. And each year, technology journalists await the release of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (‘ACMA’) annual report which includes details on the number of disclosures of telecommunications data.

The controversial data retention laws passed in March this year amended the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act (‘the TIA Act’). Under this Act, an authorised officer of an enforcement agency can authorise the disclosure of specified information or documents in relation to the:

  • enforcement of a criminal law (s 178);
  • enforcement of a law imposing a pecuniary penalty or protection of the public revenue (s 179).

Access to telecommunications data is not limited to cases involving a serious crime or contravention of the law.

(2015) 40(4) AltLJ 284


NSW housing law reform

Thomas Mortimer
New South Wales

Spring has been a busy period in NSW housing law. Perhaps most prominent was the Residential Tenancies and Housing Legislation Amendment (Public Housing – Antisocial Behaviour) Bill 2015 (‘the Bill’). This was introduced into parliament without prior consultation, and was the subject of concerted efforts from community organisations and legal bodies to have it withdrawn or substantially modified.

The Bill was assented to on 22 October, with some amendments, and is expected to commence in early 2016.

Its wide-ranging provisions will diminish the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal’s (‘NCAT’) decision-making capacity, and profoundly impact the lives of many social housing tenants. Most notably, the Bill will require the Tribunal to terminate a social housing tenancy in most instances where it finds the residence has been used for an illegal purpose. At present, NCAT may consider all circumstances in this deliberation.


(2015) 40(4) AltLJ 285


Family violence funding boost hailed as nation building

The Tasmanian Committee

Following on from the Tasmanian Attorney-General’s announcement that a feasibility study will examine the merits of a specialist Family Violence Court, the Premier Will Hodgman recently unveiled a $26 million whole-of-government action plan to tackle family violence. Opposition parties and organisations working with victims and perpetrators of domestic violence unanimously praised the increased funding that included additional funding for community education, crisis accommodation and the legal assistance sector. The funding has been hailed as nation leading with Susan Fahey, CEO of the Women’s Legal Service noting that the government ‘have actually come up with a plan that tackles what’s going on in the community but with a view to preventing family violence into the future’.

(2015) 40(4) AltLJ 287


Girlie sums up 2015

Mary Chrismas, Rama Dunn, Hannah Carr

Trailblazing Women

The Trailblazing Women and the Law Project is creating, showcasing and analysing the experiences of seven decades of Australia’s pioneer, ‘trailblazing’, women lawyers. Using an interdisciplinary team with expertise in the fields of gender, oral history, biography, law, citizenship, social networks, cultural informatics, digital publishing and women’s history archiving, the Project will ensure trailblazing women in law are recognized and their stories made available to inspire others. The Project Partners are ANU, Australian Women Lawyers, The University of Melbourne’s eScholarship Research Centre, Family Court of Australia, Federal Court of Australia, National Foundation for Australian Women and the National Library of Australia.

The Women Lawyers’ Association of South Australia has made the Trailblazing Project their nominated charity for the 2015–16 financial year. WLASA has made a donation and is encouraging its members to donate. Girlie devotees can also be part of this inspirational work by making a donation to Trailblazing Women and the Law. Check out their website: — and select ‘Trailblazing Women and the Law’.

(2015) 40(4) AltLJ 283


Everything You Need To Know About The Referendum To Recognise Indigenous Australians

Kate Galloway

Davis-Williams-Everythng-you-need-to-know-about-the-referendum-cover-smMegan Davis & George Williams; New South Books, 2015; 224 pages; $19.99 (paperback)

The momentum for Indigenous constitutional recognition has been building over the last few years, but more recently has shifted tracks as different voices are heard and political realities settle in. For those grappling with the issues (and I am one), there could not have been a better time for the release of this book.

In this very readable edition, two of Australia’s foremost experts in constitutional law provide an account of the history, contemporary context and legal issues associated with Indigenous constitutional recognition. While being comprehensive, the book does not distance itself from the reader’s likely level of understanding. For this reason, it is engaging as well as thought-provoking, reading more like a story but containing all the requisite evidence and legal authority that you would expect from professors of constitutional law.

(2015) 40(4) AltLJ 292


Surrogacy, Law and Human Rights

Stephen Page

Gerber-Surrogacy-Law-and-Human-rights-cover-smPaula Gerber and Katie O’Byrne (eds); Ashgate, 2015; 238 pages; $125 (hardback)

When I went to uni to study law back in the ’80s, I never imagined that I would ever run a case arguing when life began. It was one of those joke questions that we law students would say to each other. I did however have such a case in 2012, when I persuaded a judge that the conception of a child occurred not at the time of fertilisation of the embryo, but at the commencement of pregnancy.

A disaster was avoided. The question of when the child was conceived in law was essential. If conception had been when the fertilisation of the embryo had occurred, and not at pregnancy, an order transferring parentage to the intended parents could not have been made. Luck was on our side and the judge agreed with my analysis. The case illustrates the bigger point — that the law is playing catch up with big changes in society.

(2015) 40(4) AltLJ 291


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