Law Reform – Survival and Growth


The conference was held from 24 March 2016 at the Woodward Conference Centre, Melbourne Law School, Level 10, 185 Pelham St, Carlton 3053.



Wednesday 2 March 2016

Time Event/Session
6:00 – 7.30pm

Welcome reception

Treetops, Melbourne Museum

11 Nicholson St, Carlton 3053



Day One –Thursday 3 March 2016

Woodward Conference Centre, Melbourne Law School, Level 10, 185 Pelham St, Carlton 3053 

Time Event/Session Speakers                                                                       
8.30 – 9.00am Registration   
9:00 – 9:15am Conference opening  The Hon. Philip Cummins AM, Chair, Victorian Law Reform Commission
9.15 – 9:25am Welcome to country   
9:25 – 9:35am Welcome to Victoria  The Hon. Martin Pakula MP, Attorney-General of Victoria
9:35 – 10:30am

Keynote address

If not for institutional law reform…

(a reflection on some of the important changes brought about by law reform agencies that would not have been possible without these agencies)

The Hon. Sir Grant Hammond KNZM, President, New Zealand Law Commission
10.30 – 11.00am Morning tea  
11.00 – 12.30pm

Session 1 – Theme: Survival

What factors, both internal and external, affect the support law reform agencies receive from their government funder?

3 speakers @ 20 mins + 30 mins for discussion/questions

First speaker: New Zealand Law Commission

Presenter: Roland Daysh, General Manager

Title:‘The Challenge of Demonstrating Value’.


Abstract: There is a real challenge to answering questions like:

Why is New Zealand a better place because the Law Commission exists?

What value does the government get from funding the Law Commission?

How would the Law Commission justify an increase in funding?


The problem is that if you do not provide credible answers to these questions then your Law Reform agency will either be undervalued or will not grow. The New Zealand Law Commission’s ongoing struggle with this issue will be outlined.



Second Speaker: Queensland Law Reform Commission

Presenter: Peter Hastie QC, Member


Title:'Potential means of responding to political imperatives by law reform agencies'



Abstract:Governments have taken to using alternative means for law reform rather than established law reform commissions and have reduced the budgets for these agencies accordingly.  This in part reflects the political imperative for immediate changes in the law to be made when problems arise and the desire for change in particular directions and the disinclination in these circumstances to waiting for all encompassing reviews.  Alternative approaches to the preparation and presentation of reports exist to meet these needs.


Third Speaker: Third Speaker: Solomon Islands Law Reform Commission

Presenter: Frank Paulsen (Chairman)

Title: 'Building Bridges for Law Reform: The Solomon Islands Law Reform Commission'


Abstract: What can a small law reform agency in a small developing country do to survive in the midst of such challenges as, lack of clear mandate from the government and duplication of its roles and responsibilities, by government ministries, agencies and committees? 



This presentation will outline the challenges faced by the Solomon Islands Law Reform Commission and also highlight opportunities for the Commission to Justify its continued existence, role and funding.


12.30 – 1.30pm


A meeting will be held over the lunch break for Chairs, Presidents, Directors and Commissioners (discussion to include a decision about the next ALRAC host)

1.30 – 3.00pm

Session 2 – Theme: Survival

There are many ways of operating. Different law reform agency models.

3 speakers @ 20 mins + 30 mins for discussion/questions

First speaker: Kenya Law Reform Commission

Presenter: Mbage Njuguna Nganga, Chairperson

Title: The Role of Law Reform Agencies in Constitutional Reform and Implementation Process: The Case of Kenya Law Reform Commission

Abstract: Constitutional reform in Africa is premised on two overarching functions of the enterprise. The first is the idea that the law is neither perfect nor static for all-time. Second, constitutional reform is a response to global developments which demand a review of national systems of governance in order to integrate these imperatives.

As is now well documented, our country endured such a difficult episode in the early months of 2008. Together with other players, the Commission was in its statutory capacity called upon to help return the country to normalcy. It is in this context that the Commission assisted in developing the Constitution of Kenya Review Bill, 2008 and the legislative frameworks for Agenda Four Commissions, among others. Upon enactment, these endeavours effectively set in motion the process of national healing through constitutional reform and the attendant legislative enactments.  It is for this singular reason we are happy to report that the Commission played its small bit in bringing the new constitutional dispensation to fruition and as a matter of law, continues to shape the legal and constitutional reforms in our jurisdiction by being directly involved in the constitutional implementation process.

Prof. David Weisbrot succinctly observed that the constitutions of law reform agencies ordinarily indicate that much is expected of them. They tend not to be modest in their aspirations. Their remit usually covers a wide range of functions. A typical legislation [and ours is one] establishing a law reform agency makes it their duty to keep under review all the law they are responsible.  For our case, this mandate was expanded by the Constitution of Kenya, 2010 which under Clause 5[6] [b] of Sixth Schedule requires the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution to coordinate with the Law Reform Commission and the Attorney-General to prepare for tabling in Parliament legislation required to implement the Constitution.


Second speaker:  Law Reform Commission of Western Australia

Presenter: Dr David Cox, Chair

Title: 'Law Reform Commission Operating Models - The Western Australian Experience'


Third speaker: ACT Law Reform Advisory Council

Presenter: Fiona Tito Wheatland, Executive Officer of the ACT Law Reform Advisory Council and Legal Policy Researcher and writer for the Council.

Title: Law Reform in a small jurisdiction – linking the academy, Government and the people

Abstract: ACT is a small jurisdiction, seeking to do big things. Size DOES matter in traditional models of Law Reform. The Council’s tiny budget requires innovation to succeed. “Nested” in the College of Law at the ANU with one part-time employee, we still reach out into the Canberra community and Government. Using the Guardianship Review, we will illustrate how we have been able to live within our means but grow well beyond them.


3.00 – 3.30pm Afternoon tea    
3.30 – 5.00pm

Session 3 – Theme: Survival

Adapting to survive. Using resources and influence strategically. 

3 speakers @ 20 mins + 30 mins for discussion/questions 

First speaker: Tasmania Law Reform Institute and South Australian Law Reform Institute

Presenters: Terese Henning, Director, Tasmania Law Reform Institute and Dr David Plater, Deputy Director, South Australian Law Reform Institute

Title: ‘Law Reform on the Smell of an Oily Rag’: The Challenge of Managing Law Reform in Smaller Jurisdictions’

Abstract: The current funding pressures confronting both Governments and universities raises major implications for Australian law reform agencies, especially those operating in smaller jurisdictions such as South Australia and Tasmania. This joint presentation by the Law Reform Institutes of South Australia and Tasmania discusses the financial and other challenges of managing law reform in smaller jurisdictions and identifies and examines the strategies that have been adopted in both jurisdictions to pursue and progress law reform. 


Second speaker:  Samoa Law Reform Commission

Presenter: Leota Theresa Potoi, Executive Director

Title: Challenges to Law Reform in Samoa: Graduating from Infancy

Abstract: This presentation discusses some of the challenges faced by the Samoa Law Reform Commission in managing law reform in its infancy - and some of the strategies adopted in its steady progress towards maturity.


Third speaker: New South Wales Law Reform Commission

Presenter: Alan Cameron AO, Chairperson 

Title: 'First Impressions on Coming in the Door'

5.00 – 5.15pm Day One wrap-up  
6:30 –9:30pm 

Conference dinner

Charcoal Lane Restaurant

136 Gertrude St, Fitzroy 3065



Day Two – Friday 4 March 2016

Woodward Conference Centre, Melbourne Law School, Level 10, 185 Pelham St, Carlton 3053 

Time  Event/Session          Speakers
9.00 – 10.30am

Session 4 – Theme: Growth and Survival - Staying relevant

Consultation and stakeholder engagement - innovation and best practice (highlighting one recent innovation or particularly effective technique)                                     

4 speakers @ 20 mins + 10 min wrap-up

First speaker: South Australian Law Reform Institute

Presenters: Professor John Williams, Dean, Adelaide Law School and Director of the South Australian Law Reform Institute, and Sarah Moulds, Project Researcher and PhD candidate, Adelaide Law School


Title: ‘Walking the Talk’: Creative Approaches to Consultation with South Australia's LGBTIQ Community by the South Australian Law Reform Institute

Abstract: The South Australian Law Reform Institute's latest major reference to examine discrimination on the grounds of gender identity and sexual orientation demanded sensitive and creative new approaches to achieve genuine consultation that would engage the State's LGBTIQ community and establish trust and respect. This presentation outlines the various strategies that were adopted in the consultation process, included meeting with the LGBTIQ Youth Drop in Centre one night for a shared dinner and a chat.


Second speaker: Victorian Law Reform Commission

Presenter: Nick Gadd, Communications Manager

Title: Online consultation - how and when is it useful?

Abstract: Social media and online platforms offer ways of reaching very large numbers of people easily and cheaply. They enable the Commission to communicate with interested parties, gauge community attitudes and readily obtain feedback on a range of questions. The VLRC often uses online surveys and social media platforms to engage with community members who may not wish to make a formal submission. However these tools are only part of a suite of consultation options - face-to-face remains the best approach in many contexts, as the VLRC found in its recent review of medicinal cannabis, when visits to regional communities resulted in powerful testimony from people affected by the issue.


Third speaker: South Australian Law Reform Institute and South Australian Attorney-General’s Department

Presenter: Dr David Plater, Senior Lecturer, Adelaide Law School; Deputy Director of the South Australian Law Reform Institute and Senior Legal Officer, South Australian Attorney-General’s Department

Title: ‘Seen and Heard’: Meaningfully Involving the Disability Sector in Comprehensive Law and Cultural Reform’

Abstract: This presentation discusses the various consultation strategies that were devised and undertaken by the South Australian Government as part of the State’s Disability Justice Plan and the Statutes Amendment (Vulnerable Witnesses) Act 2015 which seek to make major changes to provide enhanced support to persons with intellectual disability. To be genuine and effective, the consultation process had to provide interested parties, notably within the disability sector, with the opportunity to be both seen and heard.


Fourth speaker: ACT Law Reform Advisory Council

Presenter: Fiona Tito Wheatland, Executive Officer of the ACT Law Reform Advisory Council and Legal Policy Researcher and writer for the Council.

Title: Fostering diverse input to law reform – an ACT experience

Abstract: The ACT Law Reform Advisory Council has recently conducted a reference in the guardianship area, where we used a range of strategies to engage a much wider audience.  This included various special purpose documents to reach more stakeholders, including those with intellectual disabilities.  It also included an introductory video, on-line submissions and partnered consultations.  We are also considering using social media in the future to reach a different demographic.  

10.30 – 11.00am Morning tea  
11.00 – 12.30pm Session 5 – Theme: - ‘Big picture’ conceptual references – how appropriate are these for law reform agencies? 

2 speakers @ 30 mins + 30 mins for discussion/questions

First speaker: Australian Law Reform Commission

Presenter: Professor Rosalind Croucher AM, President


Title: Conceptualising law reform references


Abstract: Drawing on the experience of three recent references on which she was Lead Commissioner, Professor Croucher will explore the challenge of big picture conceptual references, such as the ALRC’s Inquiry into Commonwealth laws that unjustifiably encroach on traditional rights, freedoms and privileges, but also the need that more confined ‘black letter’ legal references also have for a strong conceptual framework, such as in the recent Age Barriers and Disability references.


Second speaker: Victorian Law Reform Commission

Presenter: The Hon. Philip Cummins AM, Chair

Title: The Role of Victims of Crime in the Criminal Trial Process - a case study

Abstract: Using the current reference on the Role of Victims of Crime in the Criminal Trial Process as a case study, the presentation will consider the particular challenges of 'big picture' references - conceptual challenges such as defining and confining the scope of the reference, and finding the right setting on the spectrum from theoretically preferable models to those which can be practically implemented. 

Practical issues will be discussed such as how to engage stakeholders effectively when the issues are high-level conceptual ones (for example with a series of issues papers); how to overcome barriers to thinking outside the present paradigm created by entrenched attitudes and fixed mindsets; and how to deal with defensive vested interests.


Lastly the presentation will consider what level of detail recommendations should have when the focus is on the big picture.

The afternoon session is open to legal and human rights professionals generally.

The forum will be co-hosted with the Australian Human Rights Commission.

12.30 – 1.30pm Lunch and networking   
1.30 – 3.00pm Human rights and family violence forum

2 speakers @ 30 mins + 30 mins for discussion/questions

Chair: The Hon. Philip Cummins AM, Chair, Victorian Law Reform Commission

Human rights address: Professor Gillian Triggs, President, Australian Human Rights Commission

Second speaker: Dr Eric Kwa, Secretary General, Constitutional and Law Reform Commission of Papua New Guinea

3.00 – 3.30pm

Conference wrap-up and close

Afternoon tea, continuing discussion and networking




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