Hearsay ... the Journal of the Bar Association of Queensland
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Issue 72 - Mar 2015
South Pacific Legal Education Committee Print E-mail

PNG_intro.jpgIn September 2014, members of the BAQ’s South Pacific Legal Education Committee travelled to Port Moresby to conduct the 2nd Commercial Law Workshop for students of the Legal Training Institute of Papua New Guinea (‘LTI’). It is likely that there will be a third Workshop between 7 and 11 September 2015 and it is hoped that this article might stimulate the interest of potential participants. Expressions of interest can be sent to the personal assistant to John Bond QC (Kerri Millar) at kmillar@qldbar.asn.au.

The Commercial Law Workshop was born out of discussions in 2012 between Papua New Guinea’s Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia and Justice Logan of the Federal Court of Australia. (Justice Logan and Justice Collier both hold commissions as judges of the National and Supreme Courts of PNG). Those discussions led to Justice Logan and Bond QC travelling to Port Moresby in 2012 and eventually to the creation by the BAQ of the South Pacific Legal Education Committee. The first workshop was conducted in 2013 and comprised a mixture of senior and junior counsel and two judicial officers.

Bond QC again led the 2014 contingent. The other members of the group were Andrew Crowe QC, Richard Perry QC, Mal Varitimos QC, Karen Carmody, Andrew Skoien, Mark Steele, Joseph Crowley, Liam Dollar, Holly Blattman, and Sally Robb. John Allen QC joined the group on the last day for a Criminal Law workshop. The judiciary were represented by Justice Logan and Judge Burnett (then of the Federal Circuit Court).

All the members of the teaching team provided their time on a pro bono basis. However travel and accommodation expenses were met by funding generously provided through the Australian Government’s Papua New Guinea Australia Law and Justice Partnership. 

The welcoming ceremony

Arriving on Sunday 31 August the group were met at the airport by Justice Logan leaning on an ornamental walking stick. His Honour, who had been sitting in the PNG Supreme Court, had been injured a few days earlier in the “Registry vs Judiciary” volley ball game instituted by the Chief Justice.

The first day of the course on Monday 1 September began, in typical PNG style, with a welcome ceremony and speeches by the Chief Justice and other officials, including of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The Chief Justice emphasized the close ties between Queensland and PNG. He particularly noted our shared love of rugby league and the Maroons! The ceremony included the singing of the Australian and PNG National anthems by the students and a recital of the PNG National Pledge. The latter included the words “we pledge to build a democratic society based on Justice, equality, respect and prosperity for our people”. Bond QC drew attention to that line in his speech identifying the importance of the rule and law and the role of lawyers in a just society.

The LTI

The LTI is a statutory body which provides practical legal training courses for law graduates who wish to be admitted as lawyers of the National and Supreme Courts of PNG. The course takes the better part of nine months and is a substantial commitment for the students.

The LTI campus is presently located in the suburb of Waigani in Port Moresby. Prior to independence in 1975 it was a teachers training college. All of the original buildings on the campus are in use today. In 2013 AusAid provided funding for the construction of a large air-conditioned building for use as both a lecture hall and staff offices.

The 2014 Workshop had the benefit of this new, fully air-conditioned, lecture hall which more comfortably accommodates the 110 students in the LTI program. Tutorials, however, were conducted in school classrooms built pre-Independence in 1975 and without air-conditioning. Though the students were used to working in the heat, the Queenslanders took some time to acclimatize.

Planning is under way for the LTI to build a new facility for staff and students in a different location in Port Moresby. When completed, it will be a much-needed improvement for the professional training of lawyers in PNG.

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The Workshop curriculum

Members of the 2014 Queensland contingent had prepared lectures based on the papers written for the inaugural workshop in 2013. The topics covered included lectures on injunctions, judicial review, drafting pleadings, interlocutory applications, preparing for trial and appeals.

The daily timetable comprised lectures on the substantive law, followed by a tutorial activity highlighting some aspect of the substantive law. The students were required to consider tutorial problems and to address relevant issues in a practical sense, including by the presentation of oral argument and the preparation of associated written materials.

One memorable lecture saw Judge Burnett give the class a lecture on expert evidence. His Honour’s exposition of the value of “hot-tubbing” sparked the student’s interest, in the first instance because Judge Burnett did not explain that the term was a metaphor and later because of Bond QC and Crowe QC’s expressed doubt as to the utility of the process. The debate between Judge Burnett and the barristers was enjoyed by the students.

One day of the course was also devoted to criminal law and was conducted by Public Defender John Allen QC and Sally Robb. The lecture and practical problem the class worked through in small groups was on intimate partner homicide.

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Extracurricular activities

In 2013, Crowley had endeavored to relive his youth by playing touch football with students during the lunch break. The 2014 contingent took lunchtime sports to new levels. Skoien (who still plays club soccer) brought the round ball with him and Crowley again produced a league ball. Both codes enjoyed enthusiastic participation from members of the Queensland contingent and from students. Blattman and Skoien formed the core of one team and Crowley (with Steele off the bench) the core of another.

The Bar contingent also had the opportunity to visit the PNG National Court. As is the case with the LTI’s premises, the Court facilities are heavily used, space is at a premium and there are plans for significant extensions. There were also opportunities to learn more of PNG culture (via a visit to a PNG Art and Craft warehouse) and our shared history (via a very moving visit to the Bomana War Cemetery).

The 2014 contingent was grateful to Australia’s High Commissioner to PNG, Ms Deborah Stokes, for hosting an informal gathering of Australians working in the Law and Justice sector in Port Moresby at her residence in Port Moresby. Also in attendance were members of Australian Federal Police and Australians “embedded” in the Papua New Guinea Attorney Generals Department. The Deputy Chief Justice of the Supreme and National Courts Sir Gibbs Salika, was also in attendance representing the Chief Justice.

Varitimos QC and Justice Logan presented papers to a Continuing Professional Development seminar organized by the PNG Law Society to coincide with the visit of the BAQ team. Justice Catherine Davani of the PNG National Court (who had recently returned from a visit to Brisbane where she had spoken on the role of women in the law in PNG) made some closing remakes thanking the speakers and encouraging the Law Society to run more such lectures.

Drinks after the lecture provided an opportunity to mix with representatives of the local profession. It was heartening for the Queensland contingent to meet some former LTI students – now young practitioners - who spoke of how helpful they had found the 2013 Workshop. All had kept the papers given out as useful points of reference not only for them but other members of their respective firms.

Afterwards, Carmody, Blattman and Robb stayed behind to speak to women lawyers about establishing a committee to help and support them in their professional lives.

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Workshop close

The end of the Workshop was marked by a closing ceremony attended by LTI students and staff and several distinguished guests, including Justice Davani and Bruce Kelly, the head of the Papua New Guinea Australian Law and Justice partnership.

Judge Burnett gave a closing address on behalf of the Queenslanders and emphasized the importance of the students role as lawyers in society by reminded the students of Thomas Hobbes’ quote that life without the rule of law was “nasty, brutish, and short".

Each tutorial group of students had pooled their money to buy traditional gifts for their respective teachers. These were presented to the Queenslanders in front of the whole group with much clapping and cheering.

After the formalities the LTI put on a huge BBQ dinner for the visitors, staff and students which was enjoyed by all, and serenaded by local musicians.

Conclusion

The weekend of 6 and 7 September saw the Queenslanders travel home, the second Commercial Law workshop having been completed successfully. The week was intense for both teachers and students. However each member of the teaching contingent found the experience very rewarding. Feedback from the students via the LTI has been overwhelmingly positive. Varitimos QC reports similar feedback from several former students who have attended court with him in PNG to observe cases being argued. The Workshop continues to be a valuable contribution by the Bar Association of Queensland to the broader interests of the community.

Editor’s Note : As mentioned in the article, It is proposed to hold the workshop again in Port Moresby between 7 and 11 September this year. As previously, four days will focus on commercial law matters and one day on important issues of Code-based criminal practice skills.

Expressions of interest in participating as members of the teaching team are being sought. It is likely that 10 to 12 participants will be required.

Participation is on a voluntary (i.e., not remunerated) basis, but the LTI will provide funding for return economy class airfares, accommodation and a modest meals allowance. The required commitment is for the period of the workshop (with a day travelling on each side) and some time in preparation of the teaching materials.

Those who are interested should email their details to John Bond’s PA, Kerri Skeels, at kskeels@qldbar.asn.au .

By Our South Pacific Correspondent

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