Check out the first edition of the Podcast at Parkes Place, with hosts Prashant Kelshiker and Dan Trevanion joined with Associate Professor Dr Mark Nolan.
Author Archives: Bryce Robinson
Canberra: one name that automatically dredges up memories of visiting Parliament House and the War Memorial on primary school excursions. Canberra: one name that immediately conjures vivid imagery of inescapable round-a-bouts, milkshakes, fireworks and Lake Burley Griffin. Canberra: the one name that really makes you miss Sydney and Melbourne. This list is, of course, largely farcical; there are many more things to Canberra that make it unique and special.
One notable absence from this list is the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) which is situated near the National Museum of Australia and the edge of the Australian National University. AIATSIS is one of the premier research bodies into a large range of Indigenous issues, culture, history, native title and policy. In what may appear from its exterior, an unassuming building actually contains a vibrant and diverse environment of research and passion.
In 2015 I was fortunate enough to have been granted a social science internship at AIATSIS for five weeks via the Aurora Internship Program. As a part of the internship, I had the opportunity to work alongside Dr. Rod Kennett and Dr. Tran Tran at the Centre for Land and Water Research. Prior to commencing the internship I had absolutely no idea what to expect in terms of the kind of work I would be doing or the projects that I would be completing. I wasn’t sure if I would be spending hours behind a printer collecting disparate sheets of paper or making note of the seventeenth soy cappuccino regulated to 57o C with two and a half teaspoons of organic sugar. Gladly, I was not tasked with either of those things.
Whilst my supervisors and most of the AIATSIS staff were at the 2015 National Native Title Conference in Port Douglas, I was assigned with two projects. In the first project I was asked to conduct a qualitative study of Community-based Management Plans for Land and Sea Management by looking at what Traditional Owners’ and Indigenous communities’ aspirations for management of country were. In the second project, I was asked to look at the presentation, or lack thereof, of Indigenous interests and participation capacities in scientific reports addressing Australia’s ecosystems and marine areas. If those tasks weren’t already gargantuan enough, I was also assigned other tasks such as creating draft reports from various workshops from the National Native Title Conference.
What had drawn me to do internship under the Aurora Project was the desire to gain a deeper understanding about issues that Indigenous Australians face. I also wanted to be able to see how I can use the skills I have learnt in law, history and philosophy in a practical setting. Needless to say in an awfully cliché phrase, my internship experience fulfilled these aspirations and so much more. In only a matter of weeks, I felt as though I had completed a university course-worth of content. I gained deeper knowledge and new perspectives into the aspirations of Traditional Owners, the complex managerial systems needed to negotiate a cavalcade of interests in maintaining the cultural integrity of country, and the challenges communities face in accessing and protecting country. I also read widely into the successes of Indigenous Ranger Programs in relation to the ways they empower Indigenous individuals and communities, care for country and work with government agencies. The other positive outcome of my internship experience was using the skills that I have learnt in my tertiary degree thus far. I learnt that contrary to popular belief, an Arts Degree does provide some practical skills, and these skills can be used in a constructive manner.
For me, the most important part of my internship experience was the research environment at AIATSIS. All of the AIATSIS staff were fantastic and welcoming and always willing to discuss what their various projects were. In addition to this, they were always readily available to offer advice about particular areas to assist in my projects. Luckily, I was also accompanied by another Aurora Intern and a former Aurora Intern. Their company was invaluable as it meant that I always had someone to talk to or learn about what projects they were working on.
As the remaining threads of the wick, that is my internship, meet their end, I have just enough time to convince you, Dear Reader, why you should consider an Aurora Internship and undertake it at AIATSIS. If you have an interest in the issues and challenges that Indigenous people face or in the ways in which Indigenous people can be empowered and assisted, then an Aurora Internship is the most accessible way to do so. There are not many opportunities for university students to intern during their degree, and Aurora is one of the best avenues to take to acquire one. After the internship you will leave more enlightened and with a greater perspective and understanding of the issues in the lives of Indigenous Australians.
There are both summer and winter internships under the Aurora Internship Program, visit their website for more details.
Applications for the upcoming summer 2015/16 round are open on-line via the Aurora website from Monday 3rd August through Friday, 28th August at http://www.auroraproject.com.au/aurorainternshipprogram
Satire: The Giant Sucking Sound
– Lewis Pope
Most famously used by independent U.S. Presidential candidate, Ross Perot in the 1992 election’s second debate, the “giant sucking sound” was that of American jobs flowing inexorably to Mexico. Perhaps on a broader level, your average law student might find such a point of view sympathetic, given that job prospects with one’s law degree look rather meager. There is probably less empathy with the assignment of blame to Mexico, though I don’t mean to presume.
Why on earth is this relevant, you ask? Well, dear reader, it is my solemn duty to unmask the treacherous dealings of one Michael Kirby, during his tenure on the High Court. Famous for dissenting opinions and cult following, it is troubling how myopic such legal scholars can be. It seems clear, to the enlightened, that the nominal similarity between the celebrity judge, and the pink, round Nintendo character Kirby goes far deeper.
That debate took place on 15 October, 1992. Adjusting for time difference, this puts us on the good side of Australia at the early afternoon of 16 October. At this very time, our learned Kirby P (at that time the President of the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal) was handing down his dissent (of course) in the now extremely historic R v Astill [No 2]. In his judgment, Kirby argued that the trial judge had not given adequate explicit consideration to the “special circumstances” referred to in the Sentencing Act 1989 (NSW).
When justifying the use of executive authority to grant protective status to illegal immigrants in the U.S., Obama justified this as an established usage under “special circumstances”. Well there you have it. We were right all along. Kirby isn’t Australian. He isn’t even human. He’s a Mexican Nintendo hero. I think deep down we all knew.
A final nail in this coffin is to explore is the connection between Kirby and Perot. Now, there is the obvious connection insofar as Perot entered the race as a ruiner. He just ruined all over what could have been a beautiful second term for George Bush Sr. You might even say he… dissented (ish? I dunno; I said that you might say it, not that I would).
But I know what plagues your mind – the Giant Sucking Sound: how is it relevant? Well, my dearest reader, it seems self evident, doesn’t it? The Nintendo character Kirby was renowned for being able to suck other heroes into his belly and absorb their very essence. That is how Kirby masqueraded among us for so long: he must have consumed millions, if not trillions of human beings. We’ve been had, my friends. But it is not for us to judge: ours is just to watch, wait, and bend our knee to our pink, spherical overlord.
Opinion: Al-Kateb v Godwin
Earlier today, I was sitting in an Australian Public Law lecture trying to think of a compelling topic to write about when something caught my attention (which has become an increasingly rare occurrence throughout a semester of APL lectures). The case that caught my attention was Al-Kateb v Godwin. For those unfamiliar with the case, it involved a Palestinian man born in Kuwait (Al-Kateb) who moved to Australia in 2000 and applied for a temporary protection visa.When Al-Kateb’s application was denied he declared that he wished to be removed to Kuwait or Gaza. Kuwait would not accept him and it was too dangerous to have him extradited to Gaza due to the political situation there. Following this, the High Court of Australia it ruled that the Migration Act 1958 was constitutional and applied in full force to persons such as Mr Al-Kateb, allowing his indefinite detention.
Australia claims to be one that upholds human rights and it routinely lambasts governments that do not, but how can any regime in the developing world seriously take criticism from a rich Western ‘democracy’ that is known to hold asylum seekers, including children, in detention open-endedly? It’s very easy to look back on past mistakes and decry the heinous actions of our forefathers, but once we are forced to examine what is happening right next to us it is as though we are wearing blinkers. The same could be said for civilian casualties incurred by drone strikes in the Middle East: yes, we know it’s happening, but Obama seems like a cool guy so we’ll let it slide; all these (other) terrorist attacks sure are terrible though.
Meanwhile, people all over the world save their money in an attempt to escape the rockets, poverty and other hardships facilitated largely by centuries of imperialism. Bad luck for anyone trying to seek refugee status in Australia, though, because if you don’t make the cut based on some dodgy criterion you may well be in for an indefinite stay at Christmas Island (which as we all know is nowhere near as much fun as its name suggests). Yet somehow Australians are able to conjure up arguments such as, ‘They’re only economic refugees’ or, ‘The queue-jumpers should’ve come here legally!’. Indeed, as if these people were leading rather well-to-do lives in their home countries, but thought they could do a bit better in Australia, so they uprooted their families and risked their lives on rickety boats chartered by ruthless people smugglers purely for economic gain. Likely story.
I don’t think many of us who have been fortunate enough to live most or all of our lives in this country could truly imagine the conditions these people are trying to escape, ‘economic’ or otherwise. How we can subject children to what are effectively indefinite prison sentences with no better reason than, ‘It’s the law’ will never cease to amaze and appall. I hope that this is something that will be looked back on with contempt in our history, but until then the lives of those who wanted nothing more than a decent life are ticking away in wholly undeserved cages. In this matter, Australia stands firmly on the wrong side of history.
I’m currently on exchange at the University of Nottingham in the UK, using up 4 of my law electives to study European Union Law, Corporate Insolvency, Child Law and Criminal Justice on a pass/fail basis. There is a good variety of both domestic and international law courses to choose from and it isn’t difficult to take domestic law courses here, as our legal systems are very alike.
It’s weirdly similar to ANU in some ways: there are tutorials every fortnight (although most tutorials only have 7 people so you can’t escape your readings), each course has about 2 hours of lectures a week, and lecture theatres are lined with rows of Macbooks and coffee cups. But here, the lectures aren’t recorded and I must admit this semester is the first time I’ve kept up with the coursework. There are also only 8 weeks worth of lectures here, but the content is taught quickly so you learn a similar amount here in comparison to ANU.
Also, all my assessments are exams or essays worth 100%. Oh, and the exams are closed-book. Yep, no notes, no textbooks, just pure memorisation. However, you can choose to write an essay as an alternative assessment, which is what I have done, leaving me with 1 exam and 3 essays to complete.
I hope I haven’t turned you off from applying to Nottingham because I’ve truly had a really great experience so far! I have made friends with UK students through societies and at my college called Cripps Hall, I’ll be travelling through Ireland, Scotland and Italy with my exchange friends during the 1 month long mid-semester break, and my social life is definitely peaking. There are so many active societies so there’s always an event to go to, and a huge variety of sports to try out and play. Also, every night can be a night out here.
Career-wise, there are many great opportunities for law students, such as volunteering through the Pro Bono Society, participating in competitions, and of course, the many events by the Law Society. (Disclaimer: I haven’t actually joined the Law Society, but I do know they’re one of the best societies here).
I’ve only been on exchange for six weeks but I’m already beginning to dread leaving this place. This semester has really made me aware of, and appreciate, how many opportunities students are given to get involved, and when time is limited, you really do try and make the most of it. If you’re thinking of applying for a law exchange, don’t hesitate and just do it because if you want a review of my experience so far, it’s 11 out of 10, would exchange again.