I was the Co-Chair of the National Access to Justice and Pro Bono Conference held in Canberra 13-15 March 2019.
The Conference is run every two years by the Law Council of Australia (the peak body for all lawyer groups) jointly with the National Pro Bono Centre. The program focused on all issues involving access to justice, including the issues raised in the Justice Report of the Law Council released late last year.
I recommend the papers program for examination by anybody with an interest in these topics. The matters discussed were varied and informative, ranging from religion and divorce, self-represented litigants, victims of crime, elder abuse, native title, artificial intelligence in the law, incarceration rates and access to justice for refugees.
There was even a session called the ‘Greek Court’ in which members of the audience were arrested and charged with offenses, with all proceedings being conducted in the Greek language. Participants commented that it was very unnerving to be involved in a court system in which you did not understand what was being said, and had to rely on an interpreter to participate. The session interestingly illustrates how non-English-speakers may feel lost in our court system.
The conference dinner was addressed by four journalists from the press gallery who spoke about being ‘inside the Canberra bubble.’ It was a light-hearted, yet enlightening view from insiders about the current state of national politics and political parties.
I was privileged to be involved in running the conference.
I believe lawyers need to keep up to date and at the cutting edge of issues in their field. Access to justice is one such issue that affects all Australians, and therefore should be on the mind of all legal practitioners.
Lawyers at Farrar Gesini Dunn are involved in a number of legal aid and access to justice programs to ensure equality before the law for all citizens regardless of their means. This is something I am extremely proud of and will continue to support in the future.
By Dennis Farrar, one of the founding partners of FGD.