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ALA honours CLA re civil justice

ALA honours CLA re civil justice

In a rare case of honouring the backroom people behind law reform, CLA’s President and CEO have received the National Civil Justice Award from the Australian Lawyers Alliance.

ALA honours CLA re civil justice

Civil Liberties Australia’s President and CEO have been presented the Australian Lawyers Alliance’s 2015 National Civil Justice Award in Hobart.

The presentation, by the Governor of Tasmania, Prof Kate Warner, took place at Wrest Point, Hobart, during the ALA’s annual general meeting on Friday 23 October 2015.

ALA award WARNER Kate GG  K3 BRPhoto: Governor Warner presents the award to Dr Klugman and Mr Rowlings. PHOTO: Phil Schubert

Presenting the award, ALA National President Greg Phelps of Darwin said it was made for the pair’s tireless efforts over more than a decade to improve social justice. He outlined the strong civic involvement and contribution to society by both President Dr Kristine Klugman and CEO Bill Rowlings in the decades before they together founded Civil Liberties Australia in 2003.

Speaking in response, Dr Klugman said the award was a recognition for all those CLA members who toiled behind the scenes, unobserved.

“Basically, Civil Liberties Australia drives innovation and initiatives, acting as agents for change in a constipated system where change is often resisted with a passion,” she said.  

“We’re always batting our heads against the brick walls of the legal establishment. Against such solid fronts, we are constantly arguing to convince people – who have a tendency to grab the status quo as if it was a lifebuoy – to aim for a fairer go, for smoother sailing of the Australian justice ship of state.

“So, it’s rare for such stirrers like us to be so honoured, as we are with this award.

“But this has been a rare fortnight. Last week, a new law…that Civil Liberties Australia was the first to propose for Tasmania…actually passed the Parliament here. Governor Kate Warner is about to sign the bill so that it becomes an Act of the Tasmanian Parliament.

“Bill and I first briefed politicians in Tasmania on this new Right To Appeal law in March 2013, even before virtually the same law had been enacted in South Australia after magnificent work by legal academic Dr Bob Moles. In August 2013, we first briefed the now-Attorney General, Dr Vanessa Goodwin, when she was in Opposition,” Dr Klugman said. “To her enormous credit, Dr Goodwin followed through when she came into office as Attorney-General.”

Dr Klugman said there were a host of local supporters in Hobart, and crucial visits to the state by Dr Moles from Adelaide to further brief politicians, and a lot of extra lobbying by CLA, in Hobart and with influential people in Canberra, before the bill was passed.

“But that’s the nature of law reform, in criminal or civil areas,” she said.

“In some respects, I think reform is harder in civil areas, where the ALA is leading the fight for the little guy, for laws that continue to ensure a fair go, that don’t limit the payouts to injured people because some commercial interests think there should be a cap on alleviating suffering, a concrete block weighing down an accident-injured person struggling to regain their health, their confidence and their feet.”

She thanked the Australian Lawyers Alliance for the honour of the award, which she said was both an acknowledgment of CLA and also a spur to achieve more in future.

“I hope that, starting in 2016, the ALA will be one of the leading partners in a national drive, over the next decade, to create ‘Better Justice for Australia’,” Dr Klugman said.

“That’s the name of the campaign that Civil Liberties Australia and others have been researching for 12 months.

“We already have federal politicians on side… state and territory barristers are ready to roll. The International Commission of Jurists and some top academics are keen to get started, and are planning major conferences and seminars from early next year to push the proposals along.

“The campaign will talk about baby steps to change the legal system to create Better Justice…but there is a longer vision.

“As an example, I’d like the older ALA members here today to think for a moment about how we did banking 30 years ago: remember when you had a passbook, and went into a big, solid bank building and waited for a teller, who took your cash (or gave you cash) and physically wrote your new balance in your passbook, usually with a fountain pen?

“”Can you remember when writing a cheque was a technological breakthrough? Not many cheques are written today,” Dr Klugman said.

“Now, of course, we bank from office or home, online, by computer or phone.

“Imagine if justice was just as quick. Imagine if all the effort that has gone into making banking so easy had been put into the legal systems and structures of Australia.

“Imagine if Chief Justices were heads of corporations who got paid for the equity and efficiency of the outcomes they delivered and the quality of the customer service they provided.

“Imagine if equity courts really did equity… efficiently and cost-effectively.

“Our Better Justice campaign probably won’t go quite that far, but you get the drift. It’s aspirational…it’s asking our national legal leaders the question, WHY NOT? …instead of the question they always ask about change, WHY?”



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