: Law & Culture

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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Francesca Bartlett

altlj-2012-37-1-crownies-coverProduced by Screentime for ABC1 TV, Series 1 (22 episodes) screened July-December 2011;
starring Andrea Demetriades, Indiana Evans, Todd Lasance, Hamish Michael, Ella Scott Lynch.

Former NSW Director of Public Prosecutions, Nicholas Cowdery AM QC, exclaims ‘OH DEAR!’ in his review of the first episodes of ABC legal drama Crownies screened last year.1 Yet, his is not a damning assessment of the series; he simply refers to factual errors in this fictional representation of the lawyers and workings of the NSW Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (‘DPP’). He points out that the series actually draws its title from a Victorian expression for a prosecutor (in NSW, a ‘crownie’ is a drink) and that it refers to a charge document as a ‘presentment’ (rather than an ‘indictment’, as it is called in NSW). Are these serious criticisms or simply a finicky lawyer finding fault with a drama? Perhaps it is both, and therein lays the difficulty, as well as the appeal, of the series.

(2012) 37(1) AltLJ 68



Stephen Gray

altlj-2012-37-1-guilt-coverFerdinand von Schirach; Text Publishing, 2012;
208pp; $22.95 (paperback)

Ferdinand von Schirach is a prominent German criminal defence lawyer whose first collection of cameo accounts of the inner workings of the German legal system, Crime (see review in Alternative Law Journal 36(1)) was published in 2011 to great acclaim.

Von Schirach’s latest collection, Guilt, will no doubt be snapped up by fans of the author’s cool, pellucid style. These are more stories of clients with a difference: a boarding-school boy, victim of an Aleister Crowley-like gang of dark fantasists (‘The Illuminati’); a respectable bourgeois whose life, like that of a hero in Ian McEwan’s Atonement, is torn apart by the capricious accusation of a child (‘Children’); hints of anonymous mass murder in Eastern Europe (‘The Briefcase’); and perhaps the best story in the collection, the backflips and connivances of a bunch of drug dealers who turn out to be just that little bit smarter than they look (‘The Key’).

(2012) 37(1) AltLJ 69


Let Them Talk

Mike Daly

altlj-2012-37-1-let-them-talk-coverHugh Laurie; CD; Warner Music, 2011;

Hugh Laurie is a modern renaissance man: an actor, academic, athlete (he rowed for Cambridge University) and, as this debut recording reveals, also an accomplished musician. If you’ve followed the lanky Laurie’s career, his musical penchant will come as no surprise. His piano and vocals often featured on the TV comedy series he shared with old friend Stephen Fry, while aficionados of the top-rating House will tell you Hugh’s cranky US medico frequently ends up tickling the ivories. In real life, Laurie is a multi-instrumentalist and fervent blues fan, and for this New Orleans-inspired recording, his vocals have been astutely augmented with a star backing ensemble. 

(2012) 37(1) AltLJ 70


Indigenous Australians and the Commonwealth Intervention

Jo-Anne Weinman

Indigenous Australians and the Commonwealth Intervention, Peter Billings (ed)Peter Billings (ed); Law in Context Special Issue 27(2); Federation Press, 2010;
160pp; $49.95 (paperback).

The Northern Territory Intervention or Emergency Response is a difficult subject to critique. Not only does it involve a number of wide-ranging legal, administrative and financial measures contained in lengthy legislation — with policy objectives that were initially unclear and that subtly shifted over time — but it has also undergone modifications during the administration of three successive federal governments. In this special issue of Law in Context, contributors with varied professional backgrounds — from high public office, a peak health research body and academia — offer interdisciplinary critical perspectives on the Intervention. There is a clear emphasis on the social security measures in many of the articles, with some attention also given to alcohol and pornography restrictions, as well as to policing, bail and sentencing provisions. However, given the controversy over these provisions and the ongoing debate about extending welfare quarantining measures to other parts of the country, this balance seems appropriate. Each article also includes a concise summary of the relevant law and policy which is helpful to readers who are not conversant with the intricacies of all measures under the Intervention. The introduction by Peter Billings is especially useful in this regard.

(2011) 36(4) AltLJ 289


Beyond white guilt: The real challenge for Black‑White relations in Australia

Catherine Koerner

Beyond white guilt: The real challenge for Black‑White relations in Australia, Sarah MaddisonBeyond white guilt: The real challenge for Black‑White relations in Australia
Sarah Maddison; Allen & Unwin; 2011;
240pp; $27.99 (paperback).

Unsettling the settler state: Creativity and resistance in Indigenous settler-state governance, Sarah Maddison and Morgan Brigg (eds)Unsettling the settler state: Creativity and resistance in Indigenous settler-state governance
Sarah Maddison and Morgan Brigg (eds); The Federation Press; 2011;
256pp; $49.95 (paperback).

I had a mixed response to reading Sarah Maddison’s recent work Beyond White Guilt. Maddison, I believe, is accurate to depict the issue of Indigenous – non-Indigenous relations as crucial for Australia. Indeed, the nation and state are intimately tied to a colonial history embedded in whiteness and the denial of Indigenous sovereignty. Personally, I am not sure that white guilt is the biggest challenge. However, I do agree that this is an important issue worthy of Maddison’s keen analysis and she successfully hinges her argument around an examination of this issue. At times, I did feel that I was reading with a sense of de je vu, in that many of the issues covered have been written about and debated widely in Australia. Indeed, Henry Reynolds and others have written extensively in the area of colonial history and past policies leading to contemporary implications for Indigenous people and all who reside in the country called Australia. In this sense, the book is not difficult to read, because the arguments are familiar, thereby allowing the author to provide an appraisal of their contemporary form and to give a unique twist.

(2011) 36(4) AltLJ 290


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