8 to 11 July 2004
In July, Charles Darwin University hosted the 2004 ALTA Conference. Adopting the theme ‘Crossing Boundaries’, the Conference explored topics as diverse as Aboriginal customary law, Islamic militants, terrorism and border protection, and innovative approaches to legal education.
The primary venue was the Supreme Court building, with two of the three plenary sessions being held in the ceremonial court, Court 1. For a change of focus, the plenary session on Aboriginal customary law was held at the Deck Chair Cinema, on the edge of and overlooking the magnificent Darwin Harbour.
The Keynote speakers for the first plenary session, ‘Islamic Militants, Terrorism and Border Protection’, were Professor Amin Saikal, Professor of Political Science and Director of the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies at the ANU, and Mr Karpal Singh QC, a distinguished Malaysian Human Rights lawyer, member of parliament, and Deputy Chairman of the opposition Democratic Action Party.
The second plenary session, ‘Aboriginal Customary Law, involved a forum with over 20 Indigenous law men and law women from across the Northern Territory, and incorporated separate men’s and women’s session as well as a lively joint session. Associate Professor Isaac Brown and Ms Rose Kunoth-Monks led the sessions. Rose is from the Amatjere tribe at Utopia Community near Alice Springs is Deputy Chair of the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education and Director of the Management Board of the Desert People’s Centre. Isaac is an Aboriginal man of the Iwandja tribe, an Adjunct Associate Professor in the School of Australian Indigenous Knowledge Systems at Charles Darwin University and a former Dean of the Faculty of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies at NTU.
The final plenary session was a legal education panel comprised of winners of the Australian University Teaching Medal, namely Professor Michael Adams from UTS, Associate Professor Sally Kift from QUT, and Ms Frances Gibson from La Trobe University, as well as Professor David Weisbrot, President of the Australian Law Reform Commission, and Professor Paul Chartrand, a Canadian teaching award winner from the University of Saskatchewan and a visiting Professor of Law at Charles Darwin University. The panel considered innovative and diverse approaches to teaching law in the 21stcentury.
In addition, there were 28 interest group sessions, held in various courtrooms of the Supreme Court, with a total of 86 papers addressing a wide range of contemporary legal issues. The Conference also included a presentation conducted by the Northern Territory Chapter of the Australian Association of Constitutional Lawyers, a screening of Film Australia’s ‘Dhakiyarr vs the King’ (as a prelude to the Saturday evening play reading of the Trial of Tuckiar), and the ALTA Annual General Meeting.
Consistent with tradition, the social program was given due prominence. Welcome sunset drinks were held at the famous Mindil Beach Markets, where delegates were able to mingle with the locals and tourists and sample some of the diverse cuisine that Darwin offers. The Friday evening Publishers Dinner was held on the lawns of the Cornucopia Museum Café, again overlooking the Darwin Harbour and with the additional advantage of a balmy dry season evening.
On the Saturday evening, the Conference Dinner was held at the old Fannie Bay Gaol, which was a fitting site for the delegate’s play reading of the Trial of Tuckiar. The play was directed by Ken Conway, the Director of Browns Mart Theatre, and was written by Justice Dean Mildren, of the Northern Territory Supreme Court, Tom Pauling QC, the Northern Territory Solicitor-General, and Rex Wild QC, the Northern Territory Director of Public Prosecutions, and in part was based on the writings of the present Administrator of the Northern Territory, Ted Egan AO. Many thanks are due to each of them.
Judging from the many kind comments made by delegates, the conference was a great success. That was due to the hard work of a number of people, and in particular Mary-Lynn Griffith, who kept the program on target and the organising committee active and focused. That Committee was comprised of Meredith Day, Stephen Gray and myself of Charles Darwin University School of Law.
Special thanks are also due to the conference organisers, Desliens Conference and Event Management, to the Chief Justice and the Justices of the Supreme Court for the use of the Supreme Court building, and to our sponsors: The Northern Territory Aboriginal Justice Advocacy Committee, Browns Mart Community Arts, CCH Australia, Cavendish Australia, Charles Darwin University, The Federation Press, Film Australia, Lexis Nexis, and Thomson Legal and Regulatory.
A successful ALTA Conference also depends very much on the hard work of the Interest Group convenors and the research efforts and diligence of those presenting papers. To them, our thanks.
I wish everyone an enjoyable and productive 2005 Conference in Hamilton, New Zealand. To the Organising Committee at the University of Waikato Law School, I wish for you the virtues of perseverance and good humour. It was good fun, especially in retrospect.
Professor Ned Aughterson
2003-04 ALTA President