President’s Report – December
LAW SOCIETY SUPPORTS INQUIRY INTO INCARCERATION RATE OF INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS
The Law Society welcomed a recent announcement by the Commonwealth Government that it will initiate an inquiry by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) into the incarceration rate of Indigenous Australians.
Members will be aware that the Law Society has consistently advocated for governments to do more to address the appalling over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in our prison system. The announcement of the ALRC inquiry is a welcome development and a crucial step in confronting an issue that frankly shames our nation.
In the 25 years since the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, the rate of incarceration amongst Indigenous Australians has become worse, not better.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Western Australia has the highest rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander imprisonment in the country, with 3,663.5 prisoners per 100,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adult population.
As the Hon Wayne Martin AC, Chief Justice of Western Australia, has often noted, there must be a strong focus on support and community services to prevent our First Peoples from ending up in the justice system in the first place.
As I have said in numerous media interviews over the course of the last year, this is not merely an issue for the justice system in finding the most appropriate sentencing options and programmes – although they too are important – or dealing with unconscious bias. To truly address this issue an holistic response involving a combined effort across professional disciplines and ministerial portfolios is required. Perhaps it is something akin to a War Cabinet that is required to properly and ultimately address this appalling situation.
I understand that some members of the Judiciary have taken steps to ensure that the latest research is at the forefront of the sentencing process. This has included making the recent Australian Institute of Judicial Administration (AIJA) report on Efficacy, accessibility and adequacy of prison rehabilitation programs for Indigenous offenders across Australia recommended reading for all counsel appearing before the Court in matters involving the sentencing of Indigenous persons. The report can be accessed (for a fee) through the AIJA website.
The conclusions and recommendations that ultimately emerge from the upcoming ALRC inquiry must be followed by tangible actions on the part of governments and other stakeholders to address the root causes of offending and reoffending, and thereby cut imprisonment rates.
As I noted in my November President’s Report, the Law Society held its Annual General Meeting on 25 October 2016. Please visit lawsocietywa.asn.au/resource-centre to view the 2015/16 Annual Report, which contains extensive reports from the Convenors of each of the Society’s committees. In this issue of Brief you will also find a snapshot of the year in review.
2017 LAW SOCIETY COUNCIL
The Law Society’s Council for 2017 has been finalised, with the seven Ordinary member vacancies and three Junior member vacancies now filled.
As you will be aware, Alain Musikanth has been elected unopposed as President for 2017. Hayley Cormann and Greg McIntyre SC were elected unopposed to the two Vice President positions. You will find a complete list of the Council for 2017 in this issue of Brief.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who put themselves forward for election to Council. Even if you were unsuccessful on this occasion, you have played an important part in the election process and have displayed a serious commitment to advancing the causes of the legal profession and the wider community.
My thanks also go to all those members who put themselves forward for election and those that voted in the Council election. It is important that the Law Society has a Council that is representative of its membership, making the elections an essential process.
LAW SUMMER SCHOOL: UNIVERSITY CLUB, FRIDAY, 17 FEBRUARY 2017
After the tremendous success of another Law Summer School this year, it will again return in 2017. The overarching theme is Australia’s Place in the World.
Another outstanding line-up of guest speakers has been assembled to help make sense of Australia’s role in the global order during these uncertain times:
- Senator the Hon George Brandis QC, Attorney-General for Australia;
- The Hon Robert French AC, Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia;
- The Hon Kim Beazley AC;
- The Hon Justice Nye Perram, Federal Court of Australia;
- The Hon Chief Justice Marilyn Warren AC, Supreme Court of Victoria; and
- Sarah Green, Associate Professor of Law, University of Oxford.
IMMEDIATE PAST PRESIDENT’S DINNER
On 17 November 2016, a dinner was held to acknowledge the contributions of Immediate Past President Matthew Keogh to the Society. It was a delightful evening. You will find a copy of Mr Keogh’s speech reproduced in this issue of Brief.
YOUR LAW SOCIETY IS TURNING 90
2017 will be a significant year for the Law Society. It will be 90 years since the Society was established on 15 June 1927, when 96 founding members agreed that “an association of legal practitioners of Western Australia be formed”. Please keep an eye out for a number of commemorative events and activities that are planned throughout the year.
It is fair to say that the Law Society has come a long way in 90 years. In 2015/16, the Society achieved a record membership of 3,785. Irrespective of the growth in membership, the mission remains the same: acting as the respected voice of the legal profession in Western Australia, providing high value services to our members and continuing to be a forward-thinking organisation with strong, representative and collaborative leadership.
On a personal note, this will be my last President’s Report in Brief. It has been an honour and a privilege to serve as President of the Law Society. The Law Society is well positioned to be a voice of reason and authority in the community on important issues of law and legal policy that affect them and together we are a strong advocate for the profession and the Rule of Law.
As Immediate Past President in 2017, I look forward to working as part of the Society’s new Council on the important issues facing the profession and supporting the incoming President, Alain Musikanth.