: 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

Vol 35(2) - Remote & Wild

Richard Green

Our cover image, by photographer Richard Green, is of ripples in the Franklin River in south-west Tasmania. Over the last 20 years, Richard and his wife Carolyn have sought out and photographed Australia’s most remote and beautiful wilderness areas. They hope their images will add to the growing public awareness of the beauty of our natural environment — to encourage and support a desire to protect it — and that, in turn, public pressure can be brought to bear on politicians to make courageous and long-sighted decisions in addressing climate change.

Richard’s work can be seen on his website, http://www.RichardGreen.net.au. The couple have just published a lavishly produced book of panoramic images, entitled ‘REMOTE & WILD, seeking the unknown Australia’.

Remote and Wild, Richard GreenAbove: Perspective rocks — photograph taken on an island off the Kimberley coast.


Vol 35(3) - The Ghoul's Hand

Chris Davies

I was flying back to Adelaide from Melbourne about five years ago. I’d just turned 60, and I was wondering how much longer I’d want to go on playing pubs, little clubs and the occasional music festival. I’d been thinking about painting again for a long time but music had dominated my life since I’d left art school in 1968.

I’d finished a four year painting diploma at the South Australian School of Art (there was no degree in those days; art education was low profile until Don Dunstan became Premier for the second time in 1970) and headed for the UK, for no particular reason. I played the club circuit around London and the Midlands leaving a trail of canvases and drawings in the houses of people I met along the way. After a few years on the road I stopped in Birmingham, the city where I was born, and found myself a place big enough to work in. The next couple of years I painted, played very little music, and completed a postgraduate degree from Birmingham University.

I worked as a musician and continued to paint until 1976, when I returned to Adelaide and worked as an art educator for the next ten years. Being forever restless, I quit teaching, went back to art school for a couple of years, printed T-shirts for rock bands, then formed a band and went on the road for the next decade. I was fifty-five when the band broke up and I spent the next few years wondering what I was going to do with the rest of my life. During that time I’d started painting again, but I was looking for a direction which wasn’t coming easily.

When I looked out the window of that plane, I felt inspired to grab my camera, and I shot about fifty pictures of the ground. Those pictures started me on my present course. For me, painting has always been a difficult choice. I’ve always had problems with questions relating to the words ‘Philosophy’ and ‘Concept’ when it comes to painting. I don’t believe artists need a reason to make art. I draw my ideas from abstraction in nature: fallen objects, road-kill, down looking up and up looking down, chaos and randomness.

As a songwriter, the sound of my music is usually dictated by the sentiment of the words, and as a consequence I’ve never been restricted by style. I’m attempting to approach painting with the same attitude.

The Ghouls Hand, Chris DaviesChris Davies
The Ghoul’s Hand, Oil on board, 80cm x 52cm


Vol 35(4) - Water Memory

Ken and Julia Yonetani

In collaboration with the Murray-Darling Freshwater Research Centre and SunRISE 21 — and funded through the Australian Network for Art and Technology to produce work related to water salinity — visual artists Ken and Julia Yonetani undertook a Synapse artist residency in Mildura. This posting has enabled them to continue collaborating with scientists to produce works that engage with the fragility of the environment.

Salinity is a major problem for the Murray-Darling basin, known as Australia’s ‘food bowl’ as it produces up to 90 per cent of Australia’s fresh food. Every year, 550 000 tonnes of salt is pumped out of the ground in the region, to try and stem the increasing rise of highly saline groundwater.

The works Ken and Julia are producing are made from this groundwater salt, and are entitled ‘Still Life — The Food Bowl’. Still life, as an artistic tradition, emerged as current agricultural practices were being developed, bringing new food produce to the tables of a rising European bourgeois class.

Ken and Julia’s salt works bring us back to the environmental cost of agricultural production and link up with historical associations of salt — as a powerful, sacred substance that maintains life by enabling food preservation, but also one that induces the death of ecosystems. Our cover photograph is of Karadoc Swamp, an area within the Murray- Darling Basin region where irrigation drainage and rising groundwater tables have resulted in increased salinity and degradation.

Water Memory, Ken and Julia YonetaniWater Memory, Ken and Julia Yonetani
© Julia Yonetani


Vol 36(1) - 'All shall be equal before the law'

Christian Bonadio

Our cover image was captured by Christian Bonadio, and amateur photographer more at home in the world of corporate recrutiment than in the darkroom. Here he explains the inspiration for his photograph.

Visiting South Africa for the football World Cup last year, my cousin and I took a hop-on, hop-off bus tour around Cape Town. We had stopped in the judicial and governmental region of the city and, walking past the court and government buildings, saw historic landmarks that showed what living in South Africa was like during apartheid. There were benches marked 'white only' and 'black only'. On these benches there were thoughts on what defined a Black and a White citizen and some facts as to the laws. As we continued to walk and imagine what life was like for black (or perceived black) citizens, we saw this painting on the wall. The image became, in my eyes, a message to the powers-that-be regarding the injustice that apartheid law was to the people of South Africa — made stronger because of the era in which it was painted. I felt the irony of the painting, and the mask that 'lady liberty' wore, was an incredibly symbolic image which depicted the many tragedies that had been suffered.

Our time in South Africa, and being exposed to images which depicted a slice of the pain inflicted on the people at that time, grabbed me all at once. Despite it not being overly beautiful when compared to other photos that we took, this is one of my favourites.

All shall be equal before the law, Christian BonadioAll shall be equal before the law
© 2011 Christian Bonadio
The featured graffiti is part of a series call the 'Freedom Charter' by the artist Faith47. You can see more of her work at www.faith47.com


Vol 36(2) - 'Alert but Not Alarmed'

Shaun Tan

This issue’s cover image comes from Shaun Tan — artist, illustrator, animator and theatre designer. Shaun has been honoured many times, including presentation of an Academy Award for best short film, and the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award for children’s literature. He is well-known for illustrated books that deal with social, political and historical subjects through surreal, dream-like imagery. Here, Shaun explains his cover painting

This is an illustration for a story, first published in an anthology Tales from Outer Suburbia, describing a government program that encourages every suburban family to look after an intercontinental ballistic missile in their own backyard (washing, waxing, checking oil levels and other easy maintenance). The official intention is twofold: to relieve pressure on arms storage facilities and offer the tax-paying public an opportunity to feel directly involved in national defence. Unexpectedly, people begin to subvert the program over time, gradually at first by painting the missiles in personally-appealing colours, and later converting them into kennels, cubby houses, wood sheds and pizza ovens — or nesting spots for wild parrots, as we see in the painting.
This idea was actually inspired by a story told to me by a Lebanese taxi driver in Auckland, recounting how a dud missile fell in his neighbourhood, in the middle of the street, unexploded (he claimed this was not uncommon). Locals towed it away, cut it up and made a fair bit of money out of the parts and scrap metal. This got me thinking more broadly about how the ambitions of a government and those of its citizens can often be completely at odds, particularly when it comes to matters of war.

Alert but Not Alarmed, Shaun Tan © 2011 Shaun Tan
First publication of the image ‘Alert but Not Alarmed’ was in Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan, Allen & Unwin (Australia, June 2008). Reproduced with permission.


Vol 36(3) - 'Future Memories'

Catherine Nelson

Catherine Nelson, an Australian-born artist now based in Belgium, takes the art of photography to new heights with her digitally manipulated photographic series Future Memories. Nelson graduated from the College of Fine Arts in Sydney and began in her career as a digital artist, working on films such as Moulin Rouge and Australia. In 2008, she began to focus on own work which involved combining photographs of nature using digital techniques. The images in the series are created by taking thousands of photographs of nature and combining them to create a familiar yet ‘other worldly’ landscape. Nelson feels that just one photograph doesn’t do justice to her personal and inner world-view, and thus creating these images is a form of technology-enhanced ‘painting’ where technology is her artist’s brush.

The ethereal worlds portrayed in Nelson’s artworks, filled with images of flora and fauna, have gained a global audience and have had a collective impact because of their ecological implications. There is truth in her art — where real images of the natural world are reconciled and aesthetically re-arranged to strike at the centre of our emotions in one fell swoop — that reminds many of the beauty and fragility of our planet, and the importance of taking care of it.

Mareeba, 2010 by Catherine NelsonMareeba
2010 by Catherine Nelson pigment print, 150 x 150 cm, edition of 7
Cover image courtesy of Gallerysmith, Melbourne


Vol 36(4) - 'A Moment Shared'

Sutueal Bekele Althe

‘A Moment Shared’

This issue’s cover image is an oil painting on canvas by Sutueal Bekele Althe — a refugee from Ethiopia. Sutueal studied at the Ethiopian Fine Arts College but, when just 16 years old and at risk due to growing political tensions, he first relocated to Mersabet refuge camp on the Ethiopian/Kenyan border before receiving an opportunity to resume his art study in Nairobi, Kenya. He then relocated to Kakuma refugee camp in Northern Kenya where, with support from the UN, Sutueal was given his own studio. In 1998 Philip Ruddock, then Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, visited the refugee camp and wheels were put in motion for Sutueal to further develop his talent; in 1999, he was granted refugee status and moved to Australia.

‘A Moment Shared’ was one of the entries in the Heartlands 2011 artwork competition run by Multicultural Arts Victoria. Sutueal’s painting is about the hopes and dreams of people who move away from their homeland in pursuit of a better life. The artist says that his country of birth has been the biggest influence on his art because ‘80 to 90 per cent of the population are in need of help’. Sutueal’s work inevitably reflects this. In ‘A Moment Shared’, the colours are symbolic of the artist’s ethnicity — they are the colours of Africa. Intentionally vivid, they parallel the richness and vibrancy of the ‘here and now’. Figures just discernable behind the scarves wear colours that contribute to their identity, and represent a community that stands together. They hold and help each other; they are linked to their past while standing fully in the present. Filled with common aspirations, it is a harmonious moment in time.

© 2011 Sutueal Bekele Althe
A Moment Shared
Medium – Oil Painting on Canvas, [Size – 168cm x 112cm]


Girlie goes around the world

Freda Morrow

One small step…

Allowing women in Saudi Arabia to vote in municipal elections from 2015 is a small step forward, however Saudi women have a long way to go before their basic human rights are recognised and protected by law. As Ida Lichter notes (The Australian, 12 October 2011) they legally are unable to drive a car or have a coffee in public with a male. A Saudi woman has recently been sentenced to 10 lashes for driving and only a Royal edict reversed this sentence. King Abdullah has introduced some reforms including that Saudi women can travel abroad and stay in hotels without the permission of a male guardian provided the local police are informed. Some women have also been admitted to educational institutions and have roles in government.

(2011) 36(4) AltLJ 278


Losing is its own reward

Gary Sullivan

lastword-sullivan-sroth-smlIn her article ‘Changing Public Interest Law: Overcoming the law’s barriers to social change lawyering’ (2011) 36(2) Alternative Law Journal, Paula O’Brien asserts that ‘Social change lawyering is an entirely legitimate form of lawyering…’ I am not so sure. If ‘legitimate’ means always sticking within conventional ethics, and confining oneself to running cases which will likely win, then I for one could not be labelled ‘legitimate’. Against that, I reckon that the legitimacy of the law depends on it being available to all people. It is not. It probably never will be. To the extent that it is not, it is not legitimate. But I like the idea of the Rule of Law. I like Paula’s article too.

(2011) 36(4) AltLJ 293


NOT so straight forward

Domestic violence in Australia

The picture of domestic violence in Australia is stark and compelling. Approximately 1.2 million women have experienced violence at the hands of a (usually male) current or former partner.1 Responses have understandably and necessarily focused on reducing the prevalence of male violence against women.2

It is important to remember, however, that domestic violence knows no boundaries. It can occur in all relationships, regardless of the sex, sexual orientation or sex or gender identity of the persons involved. Research suggests, for example, that domestic violence occurs at a similar rate in same sex relationships as in heterosexual relationships.3

(2011) 36(4) AltLJ 224


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