ALTA Conference 2016

ALTA Conference 2016


Victoria University of Wellington Faculty of Law


banner for ALTA conference 2016

ALTA 2016 Conference a great success

On 7-9 July 2016, the Victoria University of Wellington Faculty of Law hosted the Annual Conference of the Australasian Law Teachers Association (ALTA). Some 146 participants from New Zealand, Australia, the Pacific Islands and Canada explored the conference theme Advancing Better Government, Sustainable Economies, Vibrant Communities: Law’s Role?The ALTA 2016 conference was a great success, with the Law School receiving overwhelmingly positive feedback from participants.

On the first day of the conference, following the opening address of the Attorney-General of New Zealand Hon Chris Finlayson, represented by Chris Bishop MP (Victoria Law alumnus), in the New Zealand Parliament Beehive’s Banquet Hall, Professor Sheryl Lightfoot (University of British Columbia) invited the participants to think outside the box when exploring the role of law in advancing better government. During this opening plenary session chaired by Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of Law Mark Hickford, Professor Lightfoot discussed in particular the transformative potential of Indigenous rights.

The second plenary session enabled participants to hear Sir Geoffrey Palmer and New Zealand’s Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias reflect on legal education and the legal profession. The ALTA Honorary Secretary, Emeritus Professor David Barker AM, took the opportunity to bestow upon both distinguished guest speakers an Honorary Life Membership on behalf of the Association.

The third plenary session was held on Friday morning, again in the Beehive’s Banquet Hall, chaired by Dean and Professor Stephen Bottomley (ANU College of Law). The discussion revolved around the academic endeavour. Starting with a thought-provoking presentation, Professor Lorne Sossin (Dean of Law, Osgoode Hall Law School) spoke about legal research as experiential education and law school as social innovation. His address was followed by Sir Kenneth Keith, who reflected on the evolution of legal academia in the past 60 years, and Justice Dame Susan Glazebrook of the New Zealand Supreme Court, who highlighted the important function of legal academics in relation to the development of court decisions, through their critical role in the advancement of knowledge and the provision of informed critique.

Late Friday afternoon, two vigorously debated parallel keynote sessions explored law’s role in promoting sustainable economies and in fostering vibrant communities. Charles Finny, from Saunders Unsworth, and Professors Jane Kelsey (University of Auckland) and Susy Frankel (Victoria Law) discussed issues of globalisation and free trade and their links to the other conference sub-themes pertaining to government and communities, touching notably on the recent Brexit vote in the United Kingdom and the forthcoming presidential elections in the United States. For their part, Professors Irene Watson (University of South Australia), Hone Harawira (former MP for Te Tai Tokerau) and Craig Linkhorn of the Crown Law Office  offered inspired reflections on the role Indigenous rights play in fostering vibrant communities and discussed related issues of social diversity and integration from very different viewpoints.

The fourth and final plenary session on the Saturday morning debated the role and experience of speaking about law and civics in public discourse. Chaired by Paul Scott (Victoria Law) and moderated by Radio and TV Host Wallace Chapman, the Public Voices Panel brought together lawyers and scholars actively engaged in the media: Melissa Castan (Monash University), Professors Andrew Geddis (University of Otago) and Jane Kelsey, and Morgan Godfery (political commentator), a recent Law School graduate, who represented the younger generation of law graduates. The panellists engaged in lively discussion with the audience and concluded that the privilege of speaking authoritatively about the law in the media came with much associated responsibility.

In between these keynote sessions, 30 parallel sessions comprising scholars from 26 Australian and nine New Zealand tertiary education institutions (including business schools and all New Zealand Law Faculties), practitioners and advisers from the public, private and NGO sectors covered specific topics of relevance to the conference theme and on lawyers’ role in forming the next generation of law graduates. Papers related to private law, legal research and education, public and international law, Pacific law, environmental law, criminal law, tort and contract law, comparative law, as well as law and computers.

Success for Victoria Law also came from two of the three awards from Oxford University Press, respectively won by Victoria Stace for the Best Early Career Academic Conference Paper (Liability of Directors in Tort for Misleading Prospectuses - The New Zealand Supreme Court considers the Scope of the Duty) and Nathan Ross (Research Fellow and PhD candidate) for the Best Legal Education Conference Paper (Beyond Skills and Doctrine: The Need for Policy Skills and Interdisciplinarity).

Photos from the conference

Keynote 1: Professor Sheryl Lightfoot, University of British Columbia

"Thinking Outside the Box: The Transformative Potential of Indigenous Rights" Video & Powerpoint slides.

Keynote 2: Dean and Professor Lorne Sossin, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University

"Legal Research as Experiential Education; Law School as Social Innovation" Video & Powerpoint slides. Lorne has also written a blog post on his ALTA presentation which can be read here.


Click here to view the timetable.
Click here to view the parallel session schedule.
Click here to view the full programme.

Conference venues

The Conference was held at both the Victoria University of Wellington Law School and the Parliament Buildings.
Please see here for information about the venues for the two conference dinners.

Best Conference Paper awards

Awards were presented for the following three categories:

  • Best Overall Conference Paper
  • Best Early Career Academic Conference Paper
  • Best Legal Education Conference Paper

Further information on the awards can be found here.

Key dates

Speaker registration deadline: 8 June 2016
Early bird registration: 8 June 2016
Submission of full papers for awards: 10 June 2016
Conference: 11am Thursday 7 July to 1pm Saturday 9 July 2016

Registration for the Conference has now closed.
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