: Alternative Law Journal - An Australian referreed law journal

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

The back catalogue (to 2000) is also available, free, for a limited time on our new Sage website.

News & Views

Sleepwalking into Dangerous Territory

Lizzie O'Shea and Jen Robinson

Failure of the European Arrest Warrant framework from a human rights perspective

Julian Assange is the most well-known person in the world currently facing extradition. His case highlights some concerning developments in the law of extradition, in particular, the system of European Arrest Warrants (‘EAW’). Whatever the merits of the case against Assange under Swedish law, like everyone facing an EAW, he has every right to challenge the basis of his extradition. His case provides an insight into the more general problems of EAWs, which should concern all human rights advocates, extradition practitioners and policy-makers. Such insights may serve as a warning in Australia of what might happen if an overly expedient approach is taken to extradition treaty provisions.1

(2011) 36(3) AltLJ 146


From Moree to Mabo: The Mary Gaudron Story

Laura Hilly

From Moree to Mabo - The Mary Gaudron Story by Pamela BurtonPamela Burton; UWA Publishing, 2010;
512 pp, $49.95 (paperback with illustrations)

Since Dame Roma Mitchell’s appointment to the Supreme Court of South Australia in 1965, women have slowly but surely claimed their rightful place as part of the Australian judiciary. Since 1987, with the exception of a short period between 2003 and 2005, a woman has sat on our highest court — the High Court of Australia.

The first woman to do so was Mary Gaudron.

Pamela Burton’s engaging biography From Moree to Mabo: The Mary Gaudron Story does more than review a judicial career; it reviews a judicial life. This is fitting, as Burton’s work skillfully highlights, because for Mary Gaudron — like so many other women, both then and now — a strict demarcation between the demands of professional life and personal life did not exist.

(2011) 36(3) AltLJ 214


Michael Kirby: 
Paradoxes and Principles

Kim Rubenstein

Michael Kirby, Paradoxes and Principles by AJ BrownAJ Brown; Federation Press, 2011; 484 pp;
$59.95 (hardback with pictures)

Janet Malcolm, in her brilliant rumination on the problem of biography in The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes,1 writes:

… the narratives called biographies pale and shrink in the face of the disorderly actuality that is a life. … The goal is to make a space where a few ideas and images and feelings may be so arranged that a reader will want to linger awhile among them, rather than to flee…2

A desire to linger awhile is certainly my reaction to reading and enjoying this fulsome account of the first 70 years of Michael Kirby’s life (drawing on over 117 metres of personal records held by the National Archives of Australia, extensive speeches and other papers prepared by the subject, not to mention his court judgments). Brown also skilfully makes space for a few central images and feelings to assist one’s progress through this extensive and absorbing book. The opening image shared with the reader is of the Khyber Pass, where Kirby was travelling for the second time with partner Johan van Vloten. It is 17 December 1973 and ‘This time, at least, there were no guns’. Three and a half years earlier, Afridi tribesmen ‘brandishing rifles’ asked if he was British and ‘the young Australian traveller answered yes’ (p 1).

(2011) 36(3) AltLJ 215


Gender Stereotyping: Transnational Legal Perspectives

Rachel Ball

Gender Stereotyping: Transnational Legal Perspectives by Rebecca J. Cook and Simone CusackRebecca J. Cook and Simone Cusack; University of Pennsylvania Press; 2011;
270 pp; $US 24.95 (paperback)

How seriously should we take a snide ‘meow’ directed towards a female Minister during parliamentary debate? Should we care that Australian work safety advertisements depict scenes of women cleaning and caring for children while their breadwinner husbands are out to work? Does it matter that a Toronto police officer advised a group of students that if a woman does not want to be raped she should not ‘dress like a slut’?

According to Cook and Cusack, not only do these things matter, they are significant issues of human rights concern and must be acknowledged and addressed as such if we are to adequately respect and protect women’s rights.

(2011) 36(3) AltLJ 217


Mabo in the Courts: Islander Tradition to Native Title: A Memoir

Robert Lehrer

Mabo in the Courts by Bryan Keon-CohenBryan Keon-Cohen; Australian Scholarly Press, 2011;
$59.95 (paperback)

The Order of the Court: ‘… that the Meriam people are entitled as against the whole world to possession, occupation, use and enjoyment of the island of Mer …’ (1992).

And so the case was won, 6-1 in the High Court. Perhaps an alternative title for this book may have been ‘Mabo: a plucky but lucky victory’ for it is almost certain that it was a most favorably constituted court that handed down the judgment, giving Justice Dawson (the sole dissenting judge) a thorough thrashing. But it is often said that we make our own luck and so it was with the Mabo case. The Mabo team went in as underdog; the case was run on a shoestring budget and skeleton staff, but fought with a vigor and resolve that perhaps took their more resourced opposition by surprise.

(2011) 36(3) AltLJ 218


London River

Bill Swannie

The London River, directed by Rachid BoucharebDirected by Rachid Bouchareb; produced by Jean Bréhat; starring Brenda Blethyn and Sotigui Kouyaté;
English and French language; 2009; 90mins, available on DVD

In the aftermath of the 2005 London bombings, Elizabeth Sommers leaves her remote farm to travel to London to look for her daughter Jane, who can’t be contacted by phone. Eventually she finds her daughter’s flat, above a halal butcher shop in London’s predominantly Muslim West End. Although Jane’s Muslim landlord offers her the keys to the flat, Elizabeth couldn’t be more distrusting or suspicious. Aren’t these the people who just detonated bombs on three peak hour trains and a bus?

(2011) 36(3) AltLJ 218


Girlie finds some similarities between the brothel and the bench

Isa Waughnout, Crystal See-Ling and Di Versity

‘Get Thee to a Nunnery’

Are legal brothels ever safe? Caroline Norma (The Age, 13 July 2011) doesn’t think so. She points out that there are data available for violence against women in street prostitution but not for those who are assaulted in licensed brothels. A woman in Melbourne working in a licensed brothel plans to sue her employers after she was threatened by a client with a gun because she refused to have unprotected sex with him. Caroline Norma criticises Consumer Affairs Victoria for promoting the view that prostitution can be a safe and viable employment option for women working in licensed premises. She prefers the Swedish approach which criminalises prostitution and mandates public and police education programs and empirical research.

(2011) 36(3) AltLJ 201


Writes of passage…

Megan MacGregor

Before I became a lawyer I used to love writing. There are a bundle of little bound notebooks of various sizes sitting in packing boxes in the garage as I write this. In each are sketches, photographs, slippery bits of paper with random words taped or stapled in place — a poem here, an overheard conversation on the train scribbled there.  At the time I wrote these things I had no idea what to do with it all.

After I became a lawyer, I did a lot of writing. I wrote long, complicated letters of demand. I wrote statements of claim, briefs for barristers, affidavits for witnesses. Now and again I would write the odd legal article or paper for a partner whom I worked for. I co-wrote a couple of legal textbooks — a few articles on my own.  While I slept, words snaked round my dreams with villainous intent. With so much of my waking and sleeping time taken up writing and thinking about writing, I no longer loved it.

(2011) 36(2) AltLJ 142


New UN General Comment 
on Freedom of Expression

Adam Fletcher
Human Rights

On 21 July 2011, the UN Human Rights Committee formally adopted its 34th General Comment, replacing General Comment 10 (1983) on the right to freedom of expression.

The Committee called the right to freedom of expression, as protected by article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (‘ICCPR’), ‘one of the most challenged and sensitive topics in international human rights law.’

(2011) 36(3) AltLJ 202


Australia fronts UN to defend human rights record

Ben Schokman
Human Rights

Australia faced a hard sell to defend its human rights record when it appeared before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on 8 June 2011.

Australia’s delegation delivered its formal response to 145 recommendations made as part of the UN’s Universal Periodic Review (‘UPR’) process, which reviews the human rights records of all 192 UN Member States.

Australia faced close scrutiny when it explained why it has rejected key recommendations from the international community to review its policies relating to the treatment of asylum seekers, the disadvantage and discrimination experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and the lack of a Human Rights Act or Charter.

(2011) 36(3) AltLJ 202


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