Pre-conference warm up

Team ICLR (aka ‘the two Pauls’) arrived in town a few days early in order to acclimatise to the different time zone and, as it transpired (or perspired), the very different climate in Darwin. After an unusually cold winter back in Blighty, we were not used to temperatures in the mid to high 30s, with higher humidity even in the supposedly dry season. On the way in to town from the airport, we witnessed the devastation wrought by a recent cyclone, with many trees wrecked or uprooted. The vegetation is noticeably tropical and in places swampy. But the sunsets are beautiful, especially down on the beach (see above). 


The next day we found a decent place for brunch (Alley Cats cafe) and then did a walk along the Esplanade towards the waterside area, where we did a tour of World War II Oil Storage Tunnels. In 1942 Darwin was bombed in a surprise bomb attack by Japanese planes similar to (but more devastating) than the one on Pearl Harbor. Oil storage tanks on the surface were vulnerable to attack, so underground tunnels were built to store the fuel for aeroplanes instead. You can visit these and learn about how they were constructed, as well as much else about the Northern End during World War II.


Another day we drove (with the guys from Wildy’s bookshop) about an hour out of town to do a Spectacular Jumping Crocodile Cruise on the Adelaide River. We crowded with other tourists into a tiny boat and kept our hands and arms well inside while big old ‘salties’ (saltwater crocodiles) leapt thrashing out of the water for parcels of meat dangled tantalisingly just out of reach of their big snapping jaws. 

We also watched circling kites swoop down for morsels of meat and, on one occasion, pluck a swimming frog from the river.

Territorial tales

‘Territorians’ as they call themselves have a distinctively robust approach to life, as reflected in their newspaper, NT News, a copy of which we found outside our hotel room each morning. Headlines of the ‘man bites crocodile’ variety are said to be normal. A lot of the stories feature crime and traffic accidents, as well as local politics, corruption scandals and occasional snippets of world news. In the course of our stay we found the following selection:

DAZED AND CONFUSED – “Drugged up dude hits palm trees, crashes ute near Nightcliff jetty… Driver’s rock ride comes to a rough end.” Story includes spectacular subbing fail: “He has been charged with driving on the public street with undue care and driving under the influence of drugs.” (Sir, you’re driving way too carefully now. Enough with the undue care!)

NT MAN SENT ICE HIDDEN IN BIKE – about a defendant who bought nearly 40g of methamphetamine in Adelaide, which he vacuum sealed and packed into a dismantled bicycle frame, before having it couriered to an address in Darwin under an assumed name. But it was intercepted by police and a tracking device installed. Dude!

FORMER RDH MANAGER KILLED WIFE WITH ROCK – about a former Darwin hospital manager who, while on holiday in Tasmania, struck his wife on the back of the head with a rock as they walked back to their car after lunch at the summit of Mt Roland, causing massive injuries from which she later died, according to the findings of a coroner. The man was said to be controlling and jealous and had a propensity for violence, but took his own life while awaiting (criminal) trial.

NT WOMAN FIGHTS FOR LIFE – about another woman who was ‘bashed’ by a man in Alice Springs.

WOMAN FACING STAB CHARGES – about a man said to be recovering in hospital after being stabbed by a woman in a domestic incident, also in Alice Springs. The woman is alleged to have assaulted the police when they tried to arrest her.

GROG – A lot of the stories in the paper mention ‘grog’ – a generic term for alcoholic drinks (used in the sense we might say ‘booze’) – which seems to be a problem in some areas, prompting calls for stricter or restricted hours licensing. 

WOOFSTOCK – a rather more engaging local story covered the annual festival of all things canine:


2 May 2018

Conference begins. ICLR in the persons of Paul Magrath, Head of Product Development, and Paul Hastings, Account Manager, can be found at Stand 7 in the exhibitors hall, also known as the Reflections Room here at the DoubleTree Conference Centre on the Esplanade.

Although we have been here a few days, acclimatising to the heat and hobnobbing with fellow exhibitors, including those from Wildy’s bookshop and Justis, the opening reception is our first encounter with the librarian delegates. They’re an exceptionally friendly crowd, and we’re looking forward to meeting them individually over the next couple of days.

The evening continues with the Justis party, always a lively event, and a chance for everyone to let their hair down a bit after the more formal introductions in the conference centre. This year the party takes place at The Trader Bar 


3 May 2018

Ruth Bird, former Bodleian Law Librarian, gave her keynote address on the topic of Law Libraries. The first part was devoted to the general topic of librarianship, and the various skills and tasks it involved, and the opportunities it provided, for teaching, for collaboration with other professionals, and for innovation and adaptation.

The latter part of the talk then dealt with how she was bringing these qualities to bear in her current project, working with EIFL in Myanmar, helping them set up a universities law library. 

The project has involved, among other things, finding space to house the large numbers of physical books donated, before they disintegrate from damp and insects; cataloguing the existing collection; and setting up an electronic resource – the e-library Myanmar.


In the evening, the Conference Dinner, sponsored by Wolters Kluwer, took place at Crocosaurus Cove. As well as crocodiles, old and young, the wildlife on display includes snakes and other reptiles. Braver delegates took turns to hold a baby crocodile or drape a live snake round their necks, while others gasped and stared, or snapped photos. The sit down dinner took place opposite a tank of curious crocodiles, who stole some of the limelight from the worthy recipients of the awards announced at the end.

Mitchell Street has a lively strip of bars, with swarming lorikeets at dusk contributing to the general rowdiness. For the more determined good timers, Shenannigans Bar seems to be the final destination of every evening, where live music and singalongs put paid to any thoughts of beauty sleep.


4 May 2018

Emily Allbon, former law librarian and now senior lecturer at City University Law School, talked about legal design and the collaborative development of visual resources for use in helping communicate legal ideas.

Under the title Beyond Text: exploiting the visual in law, her talk covered three main strands – student education, public legal education, and legal practice. Students, for example, spend much of their time connected to devices, using social media and entertainment, and that can be exploited in creating learning materials. Comics, cartoons and films can all be used in striking and engaging ways to convey key messages and ideas. One of the examples is the brilliant RightsInfo website created by Adam Wagner, who was one of Emily’s former students.

Later on Emily gave a short presentation about LawBore, incorporating LearnMore and Future Lawyer, the legal learning and reference platform she built for City Law School, which demonstrates much of what she discussed in her earlier paper. 

Gold sponsor address

Paul Magrath gave a brief presentation about ICLR.3 and flagged up some of his own particular interests, including the shared history of common law jurisdictions, and open justice and transparency. He did not forget to plug his own (just published) book, Transparency in the Family Courts (co-written with Lucy Reed and Julie Doughty). He will be giving a fuller presentation to ALLA in Sydney on 9 May, entitled How common law jurisdictions remain linked through their shared (and reported) history. (Slides will be available afterwards.)

Closing down

The conference concluded with closing drinks, sponsored by Fairfax Media, in the Raft room. It was announced that the next conference, in 2020, would be in Canberra.


Thanks for reading. This blog post has been updated and re-ordered to make the narrative less confusing than the previous ‘timeline’ (reverse chronological) ordering.