Teaching Law

Sunday, 22 December 2013

The perils of individualism and our dystopian present


As a child, I read constantly and I read anything. Of note however, before I had reached secondary school I had been immersed in numerous novels about the Holocaust, had read Alvin Toffler's Future Shock and had spent a lot of time delving into Alicia Bay Laurel's glorious hand written and illustrated Living on the Earth.

Mine was a childhood vision of a dystopian present and a dangerous future for which I felt the need to prepare by knowing how to survive. This was accompanied by a deep sense of responsibility to be accountable for my own consumption. (A responsibility I admit that I have been only partially successful in fulfilling.)

Surrounded today by news of climate extremes, oil drilling in the Arctic, the real possibility of dredging in the Great Barrier Reef, expanding coal terminals on the reef, mining approvals over biodiverse regions such as the Galilee Basin's Brimblebox Reserve, move on powers over Queensland's bat colonies (and so on) the dangerous future I had envisaged has come to pass. And the dystopian present of the 1970s has taken a turn for the worse.

All of these decisions, in which each of us is complicit, arise out of a fundamental dislocation of our very self from our environment and indeed from society. Our governments however have failed to provide a cohesive narrative around these decisions, thus failing to see the inherent inconsistencies in their own positions.

Friday, 20 December 2013

There's no property in reputation

In a Sydney Morning Herald piece yesterday, the new Freedom Commissioner Tim Wilson claimed that reputation was 'essentially a property right'.

With the greatest respect, this is not correct as a matter of law. 

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Vale Denis Wright: the power of connection on Twitter

I have now been considering for some time the power of social media as a means of connecting professionally and intellectually with others. Indeed I have now co-authored two articles (one forthcoming) with online colleagues about the use of Twitter and blogging in legal academia. In the articles we have focussed on the capacity for sharing ideas and the value of social media in teaching and research. Peripherally we acknowledge the power of social media to connect on a more personal level.

On that note, I learned this morning of the death of Denis Wright. I 'knew' Denis via Twitter. I interacted with him occasionally. I also read his blog in which he shared stories of his life and with pragmatism and insight shared stories also of his declining health.

Despite our infrequent interactions online, I credit Denis with inspiring what may be a turning point in my own development as an academic. Perhaps this is a professional connection, but it felt - and feels - to me a personal one. In my early days on Twitter, I had a number of discussions with Denis on legal issues of interest. It was Denis who suggested to me that I write on a blog. He promised faithfully that what I had to say was important - well, important enough to attract an audience.

And so it was that two years ago - almost to the day - I made public my first post. Denis was the first to tweet about it. His confidence in me afforded me the courage to out myself in the hurly-burly of the online world. Surprisingly for me (especially given my often dry subject matter) my blog has to date clocked up over 43,000 hits.

For all the formal mentoring systems and processes, for all that has been written about academia and collegiality, I found in Denis Wright a combination of generosity of spirit, intellectual curiosity and quiet confidence that has, in retrospect, aided me in finding my academic voice.

Independently of any metrics of impact, or number of hits, or numbers of retweets, or 'outcomes' in the language of the neoliberal university, my occasional 140 character interaction with a man I would never meet in real life, represents the real measure of value of online engagement. Despite the moral panic to the contrary (bullying, trolling and our lost youth) there are, I believe, genuine human and humane relationships mediated by online tools.

And Denis Wright, gentleman of the blogosphere, showed exactly how that could be done.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Normative foundations of intimate partner constructive trusts

On 5-6 December the Melbourne Law School is hosting a Trusts Conference at which I will be presenting.  Here are the speaker notes and powerpoints for my presentation.
'Distribution, Redistribution or Maintaining the Status Quo? The Normative Foundations of Intimate Partner Constructive Trusts'

Judgments concerning intimate partner constructive trusts often claim not to effect a redistribution of property as between the legal and beneficial owners. Yet despite looking at the parties’ respective contributions and the context of their relationship, the courts’ findings embody assumptions about justice and the value of labor within marriage-like relationships. Therefore in finding a constructive trust and determining the date at which it arose, it is at least arguable that the courts are themselves allocating property interests. This paper examines key Australian decisions on intimate partner constructive trusts to identify and critique possible justificatory norms on which contemporary doctrine in this area is founded.