Law & Culture - 2012 - Vol 37(4)

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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Contemporary Perspectives on Human Rights Law in Australia

Richard Griffin

Paula Gerber and Melissa Castan, Contemporary Perspectives on Human Rights Law in AustraliaPaula Gerber and Melissa Castan (eds);

Thomson Reuters, 2012; $93.00 (paperback)

The latest contribution to the study of human rights law in Australia, this edited collection is a broad compilation by leading and up-and-coming human rights practitioners, academics and advocates. The book successfully combines human rights law-based analysis, education and policy recommendations. From the popular to the oft forgotten human rights issues, this book leaves few stones unturned.

An insightful and inspiring foreword by Michael Kirby sets the tone for the book, which explores, in an accessible and thorough manner, the history and evolution of Australia’s engagement with human rights on both the domestic and international levels. Importantly, this examination of the human rights landscape does not shy away from topical and controversial debates in contemporary Australia. From marriage equality to ‘boat people’ and the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, this book looks beneath the shallow media-driven discourse and provides an up-to-date, in-depth analysis with historical reviews, statistical and legal analysis and policy ideas to strengthen Australia’s respect for and protection of human rights.

(2012) 37(4) AltLJ 293

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People on Country: Vital Landscapes, Indigenous Futures

Katie O'Bryan

Jon Altman and Sean Kerins, People on CountryJon Altman and Sean Kerins (eds);
Federation Press, 2012; $39.95 (paperback)

Indigenous Australians have been managing country for many thousands of years, yet the wider Australian community has only just begun to understand the important role that Indigenous knowledge can play in land management.

People on Country: Vital Landscapes, Indigenous Futures seeks to further this understanding by looking at natural resource management by Indigenous peoples on land which they own and manage, known generally as the Caring for Country movement. In order to do so, it documents outcomes of a project which took place between 2007 and 2010 in the Northern Territory called ‘People on Country, Healthy Landscapes and Indigenous Economic Futures’ as well as a complementary NSW project.

(2012) 37(4) AltLJ 294

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Climate Change AND Australia: Warming to the Global Challenge

Justine Bell

Climate Change and AustraliaBen Saul, Steven Sherwood, Jane McAdam, 
Tim Stephens and James Slezak;
Federation Press, 2012; 246 pp; $39.95 (paperback)

Climate change is a pressing global issue, demanding a 
multi-pronged approach which draws on science, law, economics and politics; it is dependent upon public support. Climate Change and Australia is the latest addition to a growing literature on the challenges posed by climate change and the potential means to address these challenges. The aim of the book is ‘to provide a clear, readable account of what climate change means for the future of Australia, its region and the world’ (p 3). One of the most interesting features of the book is its interdisciplinary approach, bringing together authors from science, economics, geography and law.

(2012) 37(4) AltLJ 294

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The Sapphires

Mabel Ho

The Sapphires DVDWritten by Tony Briggs; directed by Wayne Blair;
starring Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, 
Chris O’Dowd, Miranda Tapsell and Shari Sebbens;
Hopscotch Films, 2012, 103 mins, available on DVD, $36.95

Aboriginal stories told through the arts tend to run down the line of despair, racism and indignation. Non-Indigenous audiences are invited to gingerly toe that line, where they steel themselves before confronting the harsh realities, but stop before stripping away their apathy towards the Indigenous community.

The Sapphires steers clear of this tendency — which just might be the reason why it was such an enjoyable film. Fun, 
light-hearted and filled with so much heart and soul; no coaxing to remove apathy was necessary. Empathy for the characters and their story was drawn out so easily — it could have been handed on a platter.

(2012) 37(4) AltLJ 295

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MABO

Stephen Gray

MAMBO DVDABC1 TV, written by Sue Smith, directed by 
Rachel Perkins,
starring Jimi Bani and Deborah Mailman,
90 mins, available on DVD, $19.99

The Mabo telemovie tells the story behind Australia’s best-known legal case. Billed as a ‘story of love, passion and justice’, it focuses on the personal life and political struggle of Eddie Koiki Mabo. It explores his relations with fellow Murray Islanders — in a case which divided Islanders as much as it did white Australia — with his European lawyers and advisers, in particular, Ron Castan, Bryan Keon-Cohen, Greg McIntyre, Henry Reynolds and Noel Loos, and with Patrick Killoran, the Queensland protector who held, and exercised, such arbitrary power over Koiki Mabo’s life. Most of all, though, it tells of his relationship with Bonita Mabo (played by Deborah Mailman), who bore the brunt of the child-rearing and family responsibilities for the many years her husband pursued his circuitous, often tortured and almost always financially-crippling path to justice in the courts.

(2012) 37(4) AltLJ 296

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Rake

Penny Crofts

Rake DVDABC1 TV; created and produced by Richard Roxburgh, written by Peter Duncan, Andrew Knight;
starring Richard Roxburgh, Matt Day, Adrienne Pickering, Carolyn Brazier, Russell Dykstra and Kate Box;
series 1 (8 episodes) screened 2010 and series 2 (8 episodes) screened 2012; available on DVD (boxed set) $79.99

After a two-year wait, Rake has returned to the ABC. Criminal barrister Cleaver Greene, played by Richard Roxburgh, is back in court and wreaking havoc on his friends, associates and the legal system.

As a drama series, Rake succeeds. In common with so many other ‘legal’ dramas, Rake relies upon trials to introduce and resolve a story arc in one hour. However, Rake goes beyond many of these legal dramas, particularly the American flagships such as NCIS and Law and Order, through its construction and portrayal of the brilliant and brilliantly-flawed Cleaver, the rich set of characters surrounding him with their own concerns, as well as complex and ambiguous trials. In both series of Rake, the outcomes of the trials are not guaranteed, and nor is there always clarity about what the best outcome would be. The first series focused particularly on real, albeit quirky, criminal cases, whilst the second series is more political and satirical, and extends beyond the criminal into other areas of law including defamation. In the second series, the cases have, for the most part, been made up. It’s up for debate as to which series is best.

(2012) 37(4) AltLJ 296

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