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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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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Judging for the people: A Social History of the Victorian Supreme Court 1841–2016

Stephen Gray

Judging-for-the-People-264x307Simon Smith (ed); RHSV/Allen & Unwin, 2016; $60 (hardcover)

In 2014, when Helen Garner published her account of the trial of Robert Farquharson for the murder of his three young sons in a Winchelsea dam, she dedicated her book to the Victorian Supreme Court, ‘this treasury of pain, this house of power and grief’. 

Reading this history of the Victorian Supreme Court, auspiced by the Royal Historical Society of Victoria and edited by Simon Smith to mark the Court’s 175th anniversary, it is easy to see why.

A social history of the Court is, in a sense, a condensed history of Victoria itself, filtered through the lens of an institution built to accommodate and resolve its most intense political and social conflicts. These range from wills and gold rush crimes to Victoria’s own version of Dickens’ Jarndyce v Jarndyce, the fifty-year long battle over the construction contract for the Geelong-Ballarat railway (p 115), to the trials of Ned Kelly and Ronald Ryan. 

(2016) 41(2) AltLJ 144

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All Fall Down

Kate Galloway

All-Fall-Down-150Matthew Condon; Penguin Books, 2015; 
584 pages; $32.95 (paperback)

A professor hailing from the UK who had made Queensland his home told me some years ago that Queensland was too small a talent pool to govern progressively. His argument was that in this state, we draw our politicians, professionals (including the legal profession), industry leaders, and so on all from a small number of schools and universities. He suggested that this inevitably generated an inward-looking elite, and in the absence of stringent frameworks of governance, could easily result in corruption but would also tend to be self-serving.

I was reminded of these observations while reading Matthew Condon’s masterful final book in a trilogy charting the years of endemic corruption in Queensland’s police force and its circles of power. Following the previous instalments covering earlier decades, All Fall Down deals mainly with the 1980s. These years coincided with my last years at school, my years at uni and early years of legal practice. What struck me was not just that I recognised the leading news stories of the day, but the extent to which the events Condon meticulously chronicles were interwoven with my own life. I wasn’t ever inside the circles of corruption he describes, but I lived in these streets, I partied at these clubs, and I knew many of these people. That’s the way Brisbane was. As my colleague had pointed out, it is a small pool.

(2016) 41(1) AltLJ 73

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