By Suchara Fernando and Lauren Skinner
The Australian Law Students’ Association (ALSA) is the peak representative body for law students and represents the interests of approximately 40,000 students nationwide. The annual ALSA Conference sees 400 of these students come together for competitions and council sessions, which are vital to ensuring a strong network of law students across the country.
Between 2 and 8 July, we (Suchara, President of the ANU LSS, and Lauren, Vice-President Education) attended Council meetings with other representatives from the various law schools around Australia, as well as representatives from the New Zealand Law Students’ Association. ALSA Council provides a unique opportunity to engage and share with other law schools about how we represent our students and the initiatives we run.
During this year’s Council sessions, some issues of note discussed included unpaid internships, wellbeing initiatives, and effective advocacy of law students. It was also a time for sharing and learning from other law student societies and law student associations. The sessions allowed the ANU LSS to showcase our advocacy work on Indigenous cultural competency in legal sector, including among students. This is a project that the ANU LSS has been working on for some time now, with the intention of providing and enhancing Indigenous content in the LLB and JD programs.
As they stand, our law degrees are framed by a western, Anglocentric system that has inadequately recognised Indigenous laws and customs, resulting in detrimental consequences for Indigenous Australians. In an attempt to work towards remedying this, we have been advocating for our law degrees to include compulsory Indigenous content and perspectives.
In preparation for ALSA, the ANU LSS set up a working group and drafted a letter advocating for compulsory Indigenous cultural competency units in Australian law degrees. We presented this letter at the ALSA Conference in order to obtain signatures from representatives of law student societies across Australia. This signed letter will be given to Professor Sally Wheeler, Dean of the ANU College of Law, to share at the Australian Law Dean’s Conference later this year, with the aim that other law schools will also institute Indigenous cultural competency teaching.
Council was an incredible opportunity to learn about what is going on in law schools across the country, and we can’t wait to implement some of the exciting initiatives we learnt about at the ANU this semester!
Check back tomorrow for Victoria Hoon’s (Vice-President, Competitions) report on her experiences as a judge for ALSA Championship Mooting.