Reminiscence of Sydney

IALLs scholarships enable colleagues from around the world to participate in the Annual Courses. The 2019 bursary winners, who attended The Annual Course in Sydney, has been so kind as to share their reflections on the Conference.

I saw the announcement of the 2019 IALL Annual Course in April 2019, and noted that its topic was “Law Down Under: Australia’s legal landscape”. South African advocates (barristers) use Australian case law, commentary and legislation in litigation and legal opinions when there is little or no precedent in South African law. I knew immediately that it was a course I should attend so that I could improve my knowledge and assist the advocates more effectively. I was very honoured to be awarded a non-members bursary form IALL for the 2019 Annual course in Sydney, which enabled me to the opportunity to attend the Course, broaden my knowledge, and connect with new colleagues from various parts of the world.

The most valuable part of the conference for me was the Pre-conference workshop, “An Introduction to the Australian Legal System and Legal Research”. Fiona MacDowall and Larissa Reid began the workshop with an overview of Australian law, noting the Indigenous (Aboriginal) customary law, and the reception and adoption of English law. This was followed by a very thorough grounding in the various types of legislation made in Australia, with useful pointers on where to find free and subscription-based databases of current and point-in-time legislation. The Court structures in Australia were covered in-depth with pointers on where to find free and reliable case law. International law in an Australian context was also covered. I found many parallels and similarities with the legal landscape in South Africa, which reinforced my gratitude at being given the opportunity to attend the Course.

The next four days were as interesting as the first. It was fascinating to learn more about Indigenous customary law in Australia and to hear about the impact the adoption of the English legal system and its application has on the Indigenous people. During the presentations by Associate Professor Thalia Anthony, Terri Janke (Solicitor Director, Terri Janke and Company Lawyers) and Magistrate Sue Duncombe, I was comparing and contrasting the legal system of South Africa as applied to the indigenous peoples of South Africa, with that of Australia. Similarities between the two countries are noticeable notably the “clash” of customary law with an English legal system (also adopted in part by South Africa after colonisation) up to, and after, 1994 when South Africa became a Democracy.

Other sessions that grabbed my attention were “Australia’s Constitutional Quirks” by Professor George Williams AO, and “Parliamentary Privilege & its Legal Implications” by Stephen Frappell, Clerk Assistant of the Legislative Council, Parliament of NSW. I have an interest in Open Justice and Legal Tech, so I found the sessions on “Contemporary Challenges to Open Justice: Law, Technology, and Culture” by Associate Professor Jason Bosland (University of Melbourne) and “Regulating Technology as a category error and the real work of the Allens Hub for Technology, Law and Innovation” by Professor Lyria Bennett Moses (University of New South Wales, and the Allens Hub for Law, Technology and Innovation) thought-provoking. I also have a personal interest in environmental law in South Africa, so the session by Professor Tim Stephens (University of Sydney) on “International Environmental Law in Australia” and the Post-conference workshop by Dr Sophie Riley (University of Technology Sydney) on “Border Controls, Invasive Species and Animal Ethics”, again had me analysing the similarities and differences between South Africa’s and Australia’s legal systems.

The Local Planning Committee deserves a special mention, and I extend my sincere thanks to them. They went over and above the call of duty to assist attendees wherever possible and to make them feel welcome. The social functions introduced attendees to historical aspects of Sydney, as well to the customs and beliefs of the First Nations people during an Aboriginal Cultural Cruise, and to the indigenous wildlife of Australian with a visit to Taronga Zoo. 

I wish to extend my grateful thanks to the 2019 Scholarships Committee and the Immediate Past President of IALL President, Jeroen Verliet, for giving me this incredible opportunity to broaden my knowledge and professional horizons.

Lydia Craemer
Johannesburg Bar Library

It was the first time for me to participate in a function organized by the International Association of Law Libraries (IALL) in 2019. It was also my honour to receive the IALL’s 2019 bursaries to attend the 38th IALL Annual Course in Sydney. The value of the IALL Course was not only a platform to embrace myself with Australia’s legal landscape but also a venue for me to connect professional law librarians all around the world.

Australia and Hong Kong are both former British colonies and share the same origin of the common law development. The IALL Course offered me the chance to have a comprehensive understanding of the Australian legal system and law development in many facets. It seems that Australia has made efforts to establish its own autonomous in law development with reference to its unique natural, social and cultural environment. The absolute dominance of English law has been diluted. 

After the change of sovereignty over Hong Kong in 1997, Hong Kong has echoed the Australia’s experience in departing from the British track for her own law development. The dominant reference status of English law in the procedures of law enactment in Hong Kong has been diminished, particularly after the entry of the UK into the European Community. There is an observable tendency that Hong Kong has based many of its laws on Australian law. 

The Australian influence on the Hong Kong legal field is more than a subtle one. Traditionally, there have been a significant group of Oceanian lawyers and judges in our legal sector, including the judicial system. Even now, there are still many Australian Judges serving in our law courts at different levels. The Hon Chief Justice Susan Kiefel who delivered the opening address of the IALL Course is also an Honorary Professor of the Faculty of the Law at The University of Hong Kong.

The pre-conference workshop on 27 October 2019 was very informative. It laid down a good foundation for the Course participants to grasp the context of the Australian law and the other presentations in the rest of the Course. It was good to have a presentation on the structure of the Australian Constitution with reference to the relationship between the Australian Parliament and the states. It shone the light for me to have a reflection of the constitutional arrangement for the relationship between the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China and the Basis Law of Hong Kong.   

As a parliamentary librarian, I really appreciated the humor of Stephen Frappell for his presentation on the Parliamentary privilege and its legal implications. The content of the presentation had offered me an alternative way as well as a kind of valid reference to review the privilege and power of our own Legislative Council.

Without the presentation by Professor George Williams, I had never noticed that there is a lack of a bill of rights in the Australian Constitution. Despite the fact that there is no similar setting in the Chinese Constitution, Hong Kong has a formal Bill of Rights Ordinance (Cap 383). The essence of the Ordinance of rights has also been enshrined in our mini Constitution, the Basic Law of Hong Kong (Chapter III: Fundamental Rights and Duties of the Residents). This reminds me that different common law jurisdictions are not necessary for having the homogeneous setting or Course for their legal landscape.

I did enjoy the dynamic flow of extensive information covering a diversified range of topics within the four-day IALL Course. It recalled my memory of the intensive learning experience in Law School. It offered me the chance to extend my understanding of those unfamiliar areas, including refugee law, international environmental law, etc.

The arrangement of the post-conference session had indeed enriched the Course. The presentation by Dr Sophie Riley on 31 October 2019 was impressive. It helped me to re-adjust my perception of the Australian government’s strict control over foreign animals or plants. The changes in the natural eco-system in the wild Australia outback due to the different invasive species were well elaborated and out of my imagination.

On top of the scholarly and formal presentations of the Course, those various social and cultural activities like city walking tour, New South Wales Parliament House tour, aboriginal cultural cruise, Law Courts Building tour, and zoo visit did not only enrich the package of the Course but also offered participants many occasions to interact with each other and establish professional network among themselves.

The efficient and effective work of the local planning committee in Australia is highly appreciated. All the events had been well organized and articulated in a smooth way. They took care of the various needs of the participants. The venue of the Course was ideal for the Course in terms of its environment, location, facilities, and food.

The 38th IALL Course was a new and eye-opening experience for me. Those enlightening learning activities and interaction with law librarians coming over all around the world have enriched my personal horizon and offered me different perspectives to develop and deliver alternative library services.  

For those who have a chance to read my blog and have never been to the IALL Annual Course, I highly recommend you to join in the expected future. I sincerely wish another successful and fruitful annual course in Toulouse in 2020.

Wai-fung Cheung
Hong Kong Legislative Council Library

I would like to extend my genuine appreciation to the Scholarships Committee for having selected me to receive an IALL Member’s Grant this year. The conference in Sydney was my first time in Australia and the third IALL Annual Course that I have been lucky enough to attend—and while I now had at least some idea of what to expect from the conference and could expect to see at least a few familiar faces, I also knew how much I didn’t know about Australia’s history and laws. Moreover, no amount of pre-travel research can prepare you for what it actually feels like to be in a country for the first time. Hurtling through the air somewhere over the Pacific, I pondered the known knowns, the known unknowns, and the unknown unknowns.

Having very little knowledge of the Australian legal system, the “Australian Legal System and Legal Research” Pre-Conference Workshop presented by Larissa Reid and Fiona MacDowall was extremely helpful: it began to orient me on the land on which I had touched down some thirty-six hours prior as a near-total stranger and would serve as a superb foundation for the sessions that would follow in the coming days. (Little did I know just how useful it would be—some two months later I was asked to research an Australian law topic, and suffice it to say that 1. I had not, in fact, forgotten everything that I learned in the session, and 2. the accompanying research guide that Larissa, Fiona, and Kirsty Wilson prepared was invaluable indeed.)

The first day of the conference proper began with introductions from Aunty Norma Ingram, IALL President Jeroen Vervliet, and the Honourable Susan Kiefel AC, Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia. That day’s keynote session (“Australia’s Legal History and Colonial Legacy”) delivered by Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC QC, Governor of New South Wales was another highlight of the conference and provided an extremely helpful historical background.

Other especially memorable sessions included the second day’s “Australia’s Constitutional Quirks” by Professor George Williams AO, Dean of the Law School at the University of New South Wales (who began by noting that 47% of Australians incorrectly believe that the country does not have a constitution and that 61% mistakenly believe that it has a bill of rights); and the “International Environmental Law in Australia” session by Professor Tim Stephens of the University of Sydney on the final day of the conference, in which he explained that while Australia has generally supported international environmental law treaties—owing in no small part to popular concern for preserving its unique ecological profile—it is simultaneously a heavy consumer and exporter of fossil fuels. This contradiction became all too evident when smoke from bushfires hung over Sydney Harbour at the end of the Course (and which would become far more catastrophic in the months that followed). 

Many thanks to the Local Planning Committee for organizing a smooth-running itinerary with an impressive group of speakers and to the University of New South Wales CBD Campus for hosting the Annual Course. I’ve finally caught my breath, and I look forward to Toulouse.

David Isom
Faculty Services Librarian
University of San Diego School of Law

This Blog contains entries by members of the International Association of Law Libraries on issues germane to the Association’s areas of focus. Views expressed in an individual entry only represent the views of the author.