The Last Word

Lawyers always want to have the last word. Whether it's argumentative, controversial, eccentric or personal, this column allows one author to open a can of worms and see what wriggles out!

Spotlight on coronial justice

Rebecca Scott Bray

The Hillsborough and Sydney Siege Inquests

In the first half of 2016, two very different but significant inquests — on opposite sides of the world — entered their final stages. In Sydney, Australia, the inquest into the deaths resulting from the 17-hour siege at the Lindt café in December 2014 has been undergoing its final segment of public hearings before State Coroner Michael Barnes, after beginning in January 2015. The inquest has scrutinised the siege and events around it, including key questions such as why the gunman was on bail, what the authorities knew about him, and police decision-making in response to the siege. Meanwhile, on 26 April 2016, in Warrington, north-west England, following a two-year hearing beginning in March 2014, the jury emerged after two weeks of deliberation to deliver the conclusion of 'unlawful killing' in the Hillsborough Inquests before the Right Honourable Sir John Goldring, sitting as Assistant Coroner.

(2016) 41(2) AltLJ 146


Life Imitating Art?

Paula Gerber

Gay and lesbian families on and off the silver screen

It is a sign of how far we have come with respecting the rights of lesbian and gay people that there are currently several movies where the main themes revolve around the lived experience of gays and lesbians and their families.1 It is a sign of how far we still have to go, that the New South Wales government banned the screening of one of these movies in schools.2

Freeheld and Gayby Baby are both films that depict the reality of being lesbian or gay, or the children of lesbians and gays, in the 21st Century. However, that is where the similarities end. Freeheld is an American drama starring Julianne Moore and Ellen Page, while Gayby Baby is an Australian documentary chronicling the lives of four children in same-sex families.

(2015) 40(4) AltLJ 294


Key change: The role of music in law reform

Tim Hollo

In early 2014, a video was released of people in the typhoon-ravaged Philippines dancing to Pharrell Williams’ pop hit, ‘Happy’. While it would be hard to find a song less ‘political’ on the surface, the power of this video, showing happiness, strength and humanity amid the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan, was such that it was soon replicated. Dancers in Tunis, Moscow and the Ukraine used the format to convey their struggle for freedom and what happiness means to them. Blogger Shan Wang recently wrote, in the online youth current affairs magazine .Mic, that ‘“Happy” came into the world apolitical, but it’s something more now — it’s a song of resilience and resolve under incredible hardship’.1

Pharrell Williams’ song tapped into emotions and opened new ways of understanding the world for new audiences. In building resilience and group identity in the dancers themselves and those around them, it helped create social and political change.

(2015) 40(3) AltLJ 219


Attacks On Lawyers: A threat to democracy

Gill H Boehringer, Stuart Russell, Kristian Boehringer and Julio Moreira

In Shakespeare’s day, lawyers were not very popular, thus the rebel’s cry ‘First thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers’. Understandably, because the lawyers were largely employed in maintaining the exploitation and repression that enabled the less than one per cent to live in a world of wealth and pleasure denied to the great majority.

Today, while the one per cent still live with wealth and pleasure, lawyers are often on the other side, challenging the policies and practices of states and large corporations that destroy the environment and create social and economic conditions that threaten the well-being of hundreds of millions. Lawyers are resisting what has become an onslaught against democratic traditions and institutions in many countries.

(2015) 40(1) AltLJ 71


Policing ‘The Street’ In Athens

Gill Boehringer

Walking up Pireos Street towards Omonia Square in central Athens on a brisk autumn morning, I heard a very loud screeching. It was far off and I couldn’t tell the origin — human or technological. Hurrying along, with the noise still sounding, I began to recognise it as human. About 75 metres up the street, I stopped. Across the street was the source of the screams. At first all I could see was a platoon of black-garbed, helmeted and masked Special Ops police. One was busily twisting the arm of a male migrant, forcefully bent over the back of a car with his arm behind him. His arm was at an acute angle being twisted roughly every few seconds. The screams were, to say the least, loud and of course upsetting to the bystanders who kept their distance, as did I. But I had the presence of mind to whip out my little Olympus (no pun intended) and take some pictures, desperately trying to get clear images of the twisting officer, the arm and the victim. As the police were milling about, it took me four attempts to get what I wanted.

(2013) 38(4) AltLJ 286


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