Law & Culture

Law and CultureIn our Law & Culture column, you will find original works of fiction, reviews of a wide range of publications — not just conventional legal texts — as well as broader cultural forms such as films, TV shows, CDs, DVDs, art exhibitions and so on. The column links in with the Alternative Law Journal’s focus on law for the disadvantaged, human rights law and law reform.

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The Law of Poetry

Nigel Stobbs

The-Law-of-Poetry-cover-image-smMTC (‘Margie’) Cronin; Puncher & Wattmann, 2015; 261 pages; $29.95 (paperback)

One lazy Sunday afternoon (according to Chapter 2 of the Book of Mark), Jesus and some of his disciples wandered through a grain field, picking a few heads of grain. The Pharisees asked him why they would do that given that it was unlawful to do so on the Sabbath. Ever the pragmatist, Jesus replied that ‘The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.’ Implying, that God’s commandments are uttered for the benefit of his people, not as tools of oppression. A similar theme (albeit one perhaps more grounded in 19th Century English Romanticism rather than theism) seems to motivate the creative work of MTC Cronin in The Law of Poetry, especially given the choice of epigraph: ‘True laws aren’t manmade, they make man’.

(2015) 40(4) AltLJ 290

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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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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

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Owning It: A Creative's Guide To Copyright, Contracts and the Law

Melissa de Zwart

Givoni-Owning-it-cover-smSharon Givoni; Creative Minds Publishing, 2015; 560 pages; $75 (hardcover)

Who says that a practical guide to the law of intellectual property that is both useful and informative needs to be boring to read, let alone browse through? Not Sharon Givoni, who has authored the gorgeous and engaging Owning It: A Creative’s Guide to Copyright, Contracts and the Law. This book is just so damn pretty that I kept looking at the pictures, side bars and interesting anecdotes and forgot that I was meant to be reading this book as a text to review. As Colin Golvan notes in his introduction to the book: ‘The author and the publisher have gone to great trouble to remove the tome-like appearance that makes the ordinary legal text appear so inaccessible to the general reader.’ (p vii) This is certainly true and the book is liberally illustrated with practical examples of the creative products that are being discussed. The book, and the practical guidance that it contains, addresses the massive growth in interest in handmade and artisan products, noting that this has occurred in the context of the explosion in the potential market for such products on websites such as Etsy. This tension between a desire to protect the creativity and authenticity that makes the product so desirable and to gain a broad marketplace for the creative products underpins the advice provided by the book.

 

(2015) 40(4) AltLJ 293

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Human Rights in Closed Environments

Emma Larking

Human rights in closed environments AltLJ 403 reviewBronwyn Naylor, Julie Debeljak and Anita Mackay (eds); The Federation Press, 2014; 294 pages; $59.59 (softcover).

According human rights in ‘closed’ environments — where individuals are detained against their will — is an inherently difficult enterprise, as this collection of essays powerfully demonstrates. The collection defines closed environments as those in which individuals are or may be deprived of their liberty because they are, by lawful authority, denied permission to leave at will. The environments considered include prisons, police cells, closed mental health and disability units, and immigration detention centres. The contributors come from academic and practice backgrounds, with many having experience on bodies with oversight responsibilities for particular closed environments. The editors propose a ‘three pronged strategic framework for implementing human rights in closed environments’ (page 2), which is developed in individual contributions and across the entire collection. The ‘three prongs’ include a regulatory regime that combines international human rights obligations, comprehensive national human rights legislation — noticeably absent in Australia — and ‘environment-specific legislation’ (page 3) translating general rights into rights, duties, and policies that are carefully targeted towards the closed environment in question. The other prongs are effective and independent external monitoring mechanisms, and ‘culture change’ — in other words, ensuring that formal commitments to rights recognition are translated into institutional cultures that are genuinely respectful of human rights.

(2015) 40(3) AltLJ 216

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