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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Judicial Independence In Australia: Contemporary Challenges, Future Directions

Harry Hobbs

judicial-independence-in-australia-smRebecca Ananian-Welsh and Jonathan Crowe (eds); The Federation Press, 2016; 272 pages; $165.00 (hardback)

On 1 August this year, former Northern Territory Supreme Court Justice Brian Martin stood down as head of the Royal Commission into Detention of Children in the Northern Territory. In announcing that he had requested the Governor-General to revoke the Letters Patent, Martin declared that ‘it is essential’ that the community has ‘full confidence in the independence and competence of the Commissioner’ as well as the findings of the Commissioner. Appointed only a few days previously, concern was mounting — particularly among the Indigenous community — that Martin was too closely connected to the Northern Territory corrections systems. There was no suggestion that Martin would not be scrupulously independent in carrying out his duties as Royal Commissioner, and his long judicial service evidences the contrary. Rather, the perception of a lack of independence was critical.

(2016) 41(3) AltLJ 217

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Indigenous Peoples And Human Rights: International and Regional Jurisprudence

Katie O'Bryan

indigenous-peoples-and-human-rights-smBen Saul; Bloomsbury/Hart Publishing, 2016; 248 pp; $74.99 (paperback)

The human rights of Indigenous peoples came into clear focus with the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (‘UNDRIP’) in 2007. But it was not until 2009 that Australia came to the party, despite Indigenous Australians having a significant input into its development. Yet Indigenous peoples around the world had already been using various existing human rights mechanisms to promote and protect their rights, albeit with mixed results. In this book, Ben Saul draws together, in an accessible and readable form, the international and regional jurisprudence on human rights as it relates specifically to Indigenous peoples, and which was influential in the development of the UNDRIP.

(2016) 41(3) AltLJ 218

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Leading Cases In Australian Law: A guide to the 200 most frequently cited judgments

Rohit Sud

leading-cases-in-australian-law-smDaniel Reynolds and Lyndon Goddard; The Federation Press, 2016; 480pp; $79.95 (paperback) 

Leading Cases in Australian Law is the first casebook in Australia, and the only casebook published in the 21st century, to provide succinct summaries and analysis of the most significant cases in Australian law at large. As Chief Justice Robert French notes in his foreword to the book, the text is part of a venerable tradition of casebooks dealing with leading cases in all areas of law. However, Leading Cases is a thoroughly modern iteration of its predecessors, and will serve as a very useful point of reference for present day students and practitioners.

The tradition of which the Chief Justice speaks began in 1837, when John Smith wrote A Selection of Leading Cases on Various Branches of the Law with Notes (Sweet and Maxwell, 1st ed, 1837)By the time the final edition was published in 1927, this book had evolved into a portly tome stretching across two volumes.  Well before the final edition was published, a further navigational guide had become necessary, in the form of John Indermaur’s An Epitome of Leading Common Law Cases: With Some Short Notes Thereon: Chiefly Intended as a Guide to ‘Smith’s Leading Cases’ (Stevens & Haynes, 1st ed, 1873)Thankfully, Leading Cases is shorter in both the length of its title and its text.

(2016) 41(3) AltLJ 219

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Chasing Asylum

Marius Smith

chasing-asylum-smDirector, Eva Orner; CinemaPlus/Nerdy Girl; 2016; 96 minutes (documentary)

When Chasing Asylum was released in May, its Oscar-winning director Eva Orner said that she wanted to make a film that would shock people; her film has clearly delivered on that promise.

The film includes unprecedented footage from inside detention centres, and interviews with some of the many people caught up in Australia’s ‘border protection’ system: the detainees, the guards, the social workers, the family members who will never see a loved one again.

The scenes from inside the centres on Nauru and Manus Island contain a few confronting moments, such as a man with his lips sewn up, but the effect of most of the footage and testimony is cumulative. Over the course of the film, a picture slowly builds of people being subjected to inhuman conditions, giving up on any hope of a better life, while our politicians proudly proclaim that they have not the slightest concern about the human toll they are creating.

(2016) 41(3) AltLJ 219

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Native title from Mabo to Akiba: A Vehicle for Change and Empowerment?

Kate Galloway
native-title-from-mabo-to-akiba-150

Native title from Mabo to Akiba: A Vehicle for Change and Empowerment?
Sean Brennan, Megan Davis, Brendan Edgeworth, Leon Terrill (eds);
The Federation Press, 2015; 292 pages; $84.95 (paperback)

Beyond communal and individual ownership cover

Beyond communal and individual ownership: Indigenous Land Reform in Australia
Leon Terrill;
Routledge, 2015; 303 pages; UK£95 (hardback)

When I first encountered native title as a legal practitioner, having come from a commercial law background, I was surprised to see what I perceived to be negotiated yet largely-accepted strictures on native title claimants’ interests and the routine exclusion of commercial rights. Over a decade later, the landscape looks quite different. This edited book, Native Title from Mabo to Akiba, provides a comprehensive picture of key features of contemporary native title including the context for the shift in how we understand its potential.

The book has two parts. It commences with eight chapters on the legal dynamics in the development of native title, followed by a further nine chapters specifically on native title as a vehicle for Indigenous empowerment. The authors come from diverse disciplines and backgrounds, including policy, lawmaking, negotiation, research, and front line work with traditional owners. This provides the reader with wide-ranging viewpoints that canvass a spectrum of issues relevant to understanding what native title might deliver for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and, importantly, how.

(2016) 41(2) AltLJ 143

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