Law School Based Public Interest Advocacy: An Australian Story

Ray Watterson, Robert Cavanagh, John Boersig


This article presents a case for law schools to undertake public interest advocacy. It argues that incorporating public interest advocacy into curricula and research enhances clinical legal education and enables law schools to make a distinctive and valuable contribution to justice and law reform. The article outlines an integrated model for law school based public interest advocacy based on the experience of one of Australia’s newest law schools at Newcastle in the Hunter region of New South Wales. The article then describes a recent public interest case undertaken by academics, clinicians and students at Newcastle law school, explaining their participation in the case and exploring the contributions made by the case to legal education, the correction of injustice and reform of the law.

The case, one of Australia’s most controversial deaths in custody, concerned the fatal shooting on Bondi Beach in Sydney in June 1997 of French photographer Roni Levi. The article examines the shooting, its investigation by police, a coroner and an independent commission of inquiry. It analyses the flaws in these legal investigations, considers their justice implications, and outlines the legal and policing reforms achieved through the case.

The article concludes with the suggestion that changes in law school culture as well as curriculum are needed to ensure that law schools embrace public interest advocacy and other forms of clinical legal education for the future benefit of the law and its students.

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Copyright (c) 2014 Ray Watterson, Robert Cavanagh, John Boersig

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ISSN 1467-1069
ESSN 2056-3930