Team ICLR is in Melbourne, Victoria, for the 2016 conference of the Australian Law Librarians’ Association. The conference is being held at the State Library Victoria, from 24 to 26 August and ICLR is happy to be a Silver Sponsor. We’ll be keeping you informed of events via this conference diary, which will appear in reverse date order (new content first).
[Image taken from the State Library of Victoria website.]
Team ICLR for this trip includes Kevin Laws, CEO; Paul Magrath, Head of Product Development and Online Content; and Paul Hastings, Account Manager. Make sure you visit our stand (opposite the entrance to the exhibitor hall) for more information on our recent developments, including disaggregation from the two largest licensees or to sign up for a free trial to ICLR Online.
Friday 26 August
The final day of the conference. As usual, we have been running a prize draw, to win an iPad Mini, given to the person whose business card is drawn from the little bucket on our stand. Throughout the conference, visitors to the stand have been leaving their business cards. This afternoon, during the final tea break, the draw was held. The lucky winner was Georgia Livissianos, Manager, Library and Information Services SA & NT at the Federal Court of Australia, in Adelaide. Here she is, receiving the iPad Mini from our CEO, Kevin Laws.
Thursday 25 August
A night in gaol
At the end of the first full day of the conference, we were all invited by sponsors Little William Bourke to present ourselves at the old Melbourne gaol for an evening of murder, mayhem and supernatural mystery. The gaol is probably best known for its most famous inmate, Edward “Ned” Kelly, who was hanged here in 1880. It is a well known tourist destination, and it’s not hard to see why.
The evening began with a lengthy trailer by guest speaker, journalist Gideon Haigh, of his recent true crime book, Certain Admissions: A Beach, A Body and a Lifetime of Secrets, about the case of John Bryan Kerr. Then, rather more briefly, Michael Green SC spoke on behalf of his new publishing company, Little William Bourke (a subsidiary of BarNet Jade), which is now publishing the Victorian Reports, and is this evening’s sponsor.
The grimness of the long pen in which we were held, sipping beer or wine and supping sporadically on some rather nice canapes, was offset by the festive glow of pink and blue lighting, but there was no denying the horror of the exhibits tucked away in many of the cells whose impenetrable doors were opened for public viewing. They included death masks, staring blankly out of the cells, a somewhat disconcerting sight when you’re deep in conversation with a delegate over a glass of red wine; and exhibits about the awful deeds and just deserts of slashers, stabbers, shooters and poisoners.
Ned Kelly himself is remembered both in a grainy newsprint photograph (next to whom your reporter stands) and in the replica suits of his home-made armour (in whom said reporter poses in mock fighting mode). The gantry on which he was hanged is directly above.
Later, some of us went on a Ghost Tour of the yard outside (whence all the dead prisoners’ bones have long since been removed – though one was initially left behind and was said to have caused disturbances until his reinterment, whereupon the disturbances ceased), and then of the upper floors of the gaol inside, beyond the range of the pinky-blue party lights, and with more grim exhibits in open cells.
In one cell we were all locked up together, in total darkness, to be told of mysterious sightings in photographs and psychic reckonings. We then heard an anecdote about some earlier visitors in this very cell (we were all shifting uncomfortably in the dark by now) when attempting to leave finding themselves unaccountably locked in, the prison being deserted at the time, no living human agency being involved… At this point we all wished very heartily for the door to be opened and the vague light of the dim corridor to dispel the total obscurity of our surroundings. Which – thank goodness! – it did. Another cell was said to exert strange effects on some visitors: we were not told which and were challenged to guess. I won’t state the number, but my colleague Paul Hastings said he felt a sudden drop of temperature when he approached the doorway, and another delegate felt a strange movement as of fingers up her spine (though I have a suspicion as to who might have been responsible for that). (No, not me.)
During the day, the lulls in the action between meals breaks were enlivened by the appearance of the BarNet Jade panda.
Here he is, sitting at our stand, flanked by the two Pauls. We hope he did not feel too bamboo-zled.
Wednesday 24 August
Giving the keynote speech at this evening’s opening reception, the well known human rights barrister Julian Burnside QC said the topic he’d been asked to address was “Ridiculous Laws”. There were, he said, plenty of absurd or outdated laws. For example, there remains in force legislation requiring London cabbies to keep a bale of hay and a bucket of water in their cabs at all times. In Somalia, apparently, it is an offence to forget your wife’s birthday. In Missouri it is illegal to drive with an uncaged bear. In Victoria it is illegal to wear hot pink hats on Sunday. In Florida it is illegal to have sex with a porcupine – and probably unwise as well.
One of the assumptions of statutory construction in Australia, Burnside went on, is to try to see what parliament had in mind when they passed a particular Act. And it is common – and arguably sensible – to assume that Parliament had something in mind, although when you read some of the legislation it’s a debatable point.
In the early 19th century, when the canal works were extending right across England, the detailed planning for the positioning of the canals tended to be farmed out to the town clerks of the various areas through which the canals passed. Now, at that time it was not possible to get a divorce except by private Act of Parliament. There was a very unhappily married town clerk who was given the job of drawing up legislation for canals going through his area, and in the relevant piece of legislation which passed through all the stages in Parliament, in clause 64, among various provisions about stop cocks and filter beds, there appeared the words: “And the town clerk’s marriage is hereby dissolved.” And that passed. And people with nothing better to do have puzzled ever since whether it applied just to that town clerk’s marriage or to the marriages of every town clerk in that area.
Having made everyone laugh at these and other examples of quirky and bizarre legislating, Burnside proceeded from the ridiculous, not to to the sublime but to the rather more serious part of his theme, which was the disgraceful treatment of indigenous peoples and immigrants in Australia.
He reminded us that until 1967, aborigines in Australia were counted as “fauna”, and only then, in the census of that year, were they counted as “human beings”. Until that time it was also lawful for children to be taken from aboriginal parents and given away to white ones. In those days, by law, an aboriginal person could not live within one mile of a white person’s home. So if you wanted examples of ridiculous laws, you need look no further than those.
Warming to his theme, Burnside went on to discuss the Bruce Trevorro case and others of the “stolen generations”, before going on to criticise the appalling treatment of would-be migrants and refugees, and the way they were now routinely categorised as “illegal” immigrants, incarcerated in what were effectively detention centres and victim-blamed if anything untoward happened to them.
And so his theme became clear: you could have any amount of bizarre and eccentric old laws about pink hats and porcupines but for truly ridiculous laws, laws that demeaned us all, you had only to go to the laws of the present or recent past that treated our fellow human beings so shabbily.
The speech was an object lesson in clever advocacy, in the way he lured you in with entertaining anecdotes and then kept you enthralled with patient but devastating critique of injustice.
Kevin Laws, as CEO of ICLR who were sponsoring the event, then thanked the assembled delegates for coming and invited them to visit ICLR’s stand to find out why our online content is being disaggregated from Thomson Reuters and LexisNexis, and how to obtain it directly via ICLR Online.
Earlier… settling in and setting up
Last night the team flew on from Sydney, where we spent a couple of days in meetings with customers and local agents, to Melbourne. This morning it was bright and sunny so the first thing we thought of was coffee. The Old Post Room up the road on Russell St, did us proud. Refreshed with flat whites and breakfast choices of avocado toast or granola with yogurt and berries, we set off for a walking tour of the city. This took us down to the river, via Hosier Lane for a look at the crazy street art, and then back up and round to the Victoria State Library where we set up the stand. The new look – all black with classic white typography – is complemented by the black felt backdrop of the booth. Tonight’s opening reception is at 5.30.
This post was written by Paul Magrath, who also tweets as @maggotlaw. It does not necessarily represent the opinions of ICLR as an organisation.
Comments welcome on Twitter @TheICLR.
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