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Law on show


Cite as: (2007) 81(7) LIJ, p. 24

Social justice and human rights issues were highlighted during this year’s Law Week.

Human rights were the focus of this year’s Law Week which also celebrated the introduction of Victoria’s new Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities.

The Law Institute of Victoria (LIV) and the Victoria Law Foundation joined together to promote greater community understanding of the law through a series of events held in Melbourne and regional Victoria.

In partnership with the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, various activities during 13-19 May gave the public a chance to learn more about human rights, social justice and the Charter.

The LIV held a number of seminars and hosted a presentation by Legal Services Commissioner Victoria Marles titled “Getting the best from your lawyer”.

The LIV also held a free public information Wills Seminar, explaining the reasons for writing a will, how to challenge a will, and the significance of powers of attorney.

In the Victorian Bar’s contribution to Law Week, former High Court Justice Michael McHugh argued that Australia needed a national Bill of Rights.

His oration documented a number of instances that demonstrated Australia’s lack of commitment to human rights, including recent High Court decisions concerning immigration, race relations and the indefinite detention of habitual criminal offenders.

Professor Philip Alston assessed the strengths and weaknesses of international human rights monitoring in a discussion that drew on his experiences as a member of a UN human rights treaty body and, more recently, as the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions.

At the presentation, Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission chair Fiona Smith said that global statistics for mortality rates of children with disabilities may be as high as 80 per cent.

Against this backdrop, Ms Smith and Disability Discrimination Legal Service chair Dr Martin Leckey argued that the UN Convention was an important step forward for disability rights in recognising the universal rights of persons with a disability.

Finally, a video created by young people at the 2007 Youth Human Rights forum stimulated lively debate about why human rights are so important and how they are relevant to young people in our community.

Law Week serves a dual purpose as it encourages the community to learn about the law and at the same time motivates lawyers to become more involved in their communities.

One of the most successful community events was the free luncheon provided by the Essendon Community Legal Centre for migrants living in the Moonee Valley area on 16 May.

Open tours of the courts and public exhibitions equipped the community with an understanding of the past and future of the law.

Professional development opportunities such as the State of the Victorian Judicature Address [see page 25 of this edition of the LIJ for more on the address] offered lawyers a chance to interact with multiple agencies of the law and other professionals.

The official reopening of the Banco Court [see “Past influences present”, page 30 of this edition of the LIJ] was another popular Law Week event for the legal profession.

This year’s public information seminars delivered information across a broad range of topics, covering body corporate law, disability law, human rights, and animal welfare.

A Body Corporate Owners Corporation event explained the implications of the new Owners Corporation Act 2006 for the one in four Victorians who own or occupy property in more than 65,000 bodies corporate in Victoria.

The event was presented by the Victoria Law Foundation in conjunction with Coadys Barristers and Solicitors, the Institute of Body Corporate Managers Victoria Inc, Consumer Affairs Victoria, the Building Commission, Marshall Day Acoustics and the LIV.

Next year’s Law Week runs from 12 to 18 May 2008.


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