By Design, Not Accident

At our launch event, we were privileged to have a prominent public law barrister, Mr Matthew Albert, share with us about the importance of the Rule of Law and how lawyers play an important role in upholding it. Mr Albert began by speaking about his experiences as a barrister representing refugees trapped on Nauru, where he felt the absence of the Rule of Law.

When Mr Albert successfully argued—using Nauruian law—that the creation of the whole detention centre regime was deemed to be unconstitutional, he was utterly devastated to have the judge of the Nauru Supreme Court, the highest court of the country ruled that the court had no jurisdiction to hear the case. This ruling was made in favour of the government at the expense of the plaintiff’s access to justice. If anyone was above the law, in that moment, the Nauru government was.

In Australia, we often take for granted the existence of the Rule of Law, which makes us unaware of social injustice happening beyond our international borders. As lawyers, we have access to the tools given to us during our time in law school, to create a change in the world. Through upholding the Rule of Law in the court system, we can ensure that everyone have the chance of a fair trial and equal treatment before the law.

When a legal system is designed to fail certain individuals, such as Mr Albert’s client in Nauru, we ought to make a change by using the law to stand up and defend people who are powerless in society, so that no one is above the law, not even the government.

Winnie Byanyima, the executive director of Oxfam International, said ‘Rule of law, access to justice, and financial transparency happen by design, not accident.’ As future lawyers, we have an important role in making sure that this design does happen in our lifetime, by using our skills to help others achieve and experience the privileges provided by the Rule of Law.

LWOB is an amazing initiative that promotes the Rule of Law globally. Christina Storm, the Founder and Executive Director of Lawyers without Borders, emphasised how the passion for using the law as a force for good has united lawyers from all around the world. It is my absolute pleasure to be a part of this incredible organisation with a team of talented and passionate people, and I’d love for you to join us in crossing borders to make a difference!

LWOB at Melbourne Law School welcomes new student members! Sign up (for free) here.

We also welcome law firms and organisations to partner with us, please contact us on lwobmelbournelawschool@gmail.com

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