Joint Study Institute : reporting back...continued

Joint Studies Institute
13-16 February 2013

Report : Belinda Eisenhauer


Kirsty and I were fortunate to attend the JSI Conference in Melbourne in mid-February 2013. We stayed in the conference hotel, the Rydges on Swanston Street, on the campus of Melbourne University, 10 minutes walk to the Law School (the oldest in the country, opening its doors in 1857).

The thoroughness of the planning was evident from the start, with regular updates being issued to those who had registered, with useful tips such as where to find the weather conditions (especially for the international visitors) and the dress code for the three evening functions.

No single detail had been forgotten – even the newly-introduced Myki electronic travel card had been provided for each delegate, ready for us to collect at our hotel reception.

The JSI Conference has been hosted once before in Australia - in Sydney in 2004.

There were 50 delegates from common law countries such as New Zealand, USA, Canada, UK, Eire and, of course, Australia. There were 3 law librarians from WA.

We had all come together on shared territory to share and compare our experience as law librarians. We compared databases and publishers, classifications systems, professional criteria, and offered information about our countries. We had so much to share and talk about – we were never at a loss for a topic of conversation.

The registration and the opening of the 2013 JSI Conference was at the Supreme Court Library, which was most convenient for most delegates.

The conference was opened by Chief Justice Marilyn Warren, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria.

Overview of three conference papers presented


Dr Mark McMillan (Law School, University of Melbourne) and Steven Ellis, Esq (University of Boston School of Law)

The Welcome to Country statement at the beginning of events was explained by Mark, for visitors that this is adopted in Australia. This is one step closer to acknowledging the place of the Aboriginal people in Australia’s past and present. This is an important development. We must bear in mind that it was only in 1967 that Aboriginals gained citizenship. Aboriginals are 1.5% of the Australian population. We all have a shared future in Australia. We cannot develop in a vacuum and must study the US and the Canadian Constitutions, as well as our past, to build a new Australian Constitution, which includes the indigenous peoples. We must study other countries too – they are important in this; we can use their experiences to help us.

It will not be easy; constitutional reform is difficult in Australia. He pointed out that 8 out of 44 referenda have been successful in Australia.  He doesn’t hold out much hope for much change soon, but at least a start has been made in addressing the situation.


The Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG (former Justice of the High Court of Australia)

The presenter acknowledged that he had the advantage of not having a titled paper in the program, which gave him a lot of latitude! The paper was entitled Librarians I have loved, to commemorate St. Valentine's Day (February 14) and his lifelong celebration of librarians.

He spoke of his fond memories of librarians right from his first days at school, and remembering their names, and throughout his career in law, mentioning Naomi Glynn who became a judge and Petal Kinder, and paid tribute to Graham Greenleaf who initiated AustLII. He congratulated librarians in that they made a lot of noise in libraries – the noise of ideas. Librarians have helped legal practitioners appreciate the richness of the English language, as every concept we have has two words of differing origins – one Germanic and one Romance language, for example “will” and “estate”.

He recommended that we get over our parochialism and think globally – we need to think in sync with the world, not in isolation.

The law field today is a business – it is no longer a vocation or calling.  Hence, problems have manifested themselves as depression and worse, when new graduates with high-flying ideas of the glory of being a law graduate are confronted with reality . The profession today is a roller-coaster of emotions.

This paper was a very personal creation, born of a long career in law, from experience and memories. There were no hard facts and figures based on research. He wrapped the audience in a cocoon of gentle memories and poetic words.


Dr Jacqueline Horan (Law School, University of Melbourne)

The advent of technology has put the Australian judicial system in a difficult place – the Internet and DNA analysis have rocked the traditional system in Australia. The DNA analysis techniques have given a lot of power to forensic research – power which must be used cautiously. It has become too easy to make quantum leaps to incorrect conclusions.

With internet, a text-savvy active group of people (the jury in the court room), who have been actively encouraged to seek knowledge by questioning, suddenly have to become passive and non-questioning.

Jurors are not allowed to do their own research – if a copy of the Oxford dictionary or a Wikipedia printout is found in a juror’s possession, that person can be prosecuted, due to the fact that pre-judicial publicity could jeopardise the verdict. An active, questioning being is suddenly not allowed to question the judge in a court room. The jury system is not working well under these new developments. Jurors need to be encouraged to ask questions.

In some countries such as Japan, Kazakhstan and South Korea, mixed juries have evolved, where judges and jurors sit together to formulate a decision. We need to study other countries’ experiences of juries more thoroughly.

This was the only paper on criminal law given at the conference.

Personal impressions of the JSI conference

Delightful to meet the people whose names one had come to know. Ruth Bird from the Bodleian Library, Oxford University, and whom we know through her Letter from Oxford published in the Australian Law Librarian, being an example.

Imagination had been used in planning the venues and activities – a different venue every day to stimulate the delegates: Day One was the Law School seminar room, Day Two in the morning was the seminar room in the Baileau Library, at University of Melbourne, in the afternoon was a lecture hall at the university and Day Three (final day) was the Rydges' conference room.

The committee had worked very hard to make us feel welcome and make our stay as pleasant as possible; nothing had been forgotten – not even the issuing of the Myki card. Appreciated receiving the dress code tip, as well.

Registration was at the same place as the first evening’s reception – the Supreme Court Library – an excellent idea!

Communication prior and during the conference was excellent.

Shame it was so short – we were just beginning to get to know each other, then it was all over!


I would like to thank ALLA (WA) for granting us the opportunity to travel to the JSI Conference in February 2013. I greatly appreciated the opportunity; it was everything I had hoped it would be and more besides.

Thank you.

The very hardworking Committee of the JSI Conference also need to be congratulated for their superb planning:

Carol Hinchcliff – University of Melbourne Law School;
Robyn Gardner – University of Melbourne Law School;
Kirsty Wilson – University of Melbourne Law School;
Vanessa Blackmore – Supreme Court of NSW Library, Sydney;
James Butler – formerly of Supreme Court of Victoria Library.

Belinda Eisenhauer


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