Pacific lawyers gather for conference
Lawyers from around the Pacific will gather in Australia to talk pro bono, legal reform, the need to respond to cases of domestic violence and other issues affecting the region.
Lawyers from around the Pacific will gather in Australia today (Thursday) to talk pro bono, legal reform, the need to respond to cases of domestic violence and other issues affecting the region.
There are about 1700 lawyers in the Pacific, excluding Australia and New Zealand, and about 100 of them are expected at the two-day conference being run by the South Pacific Lawyers Association.
Its chairman, Ross Ray QC, spoke to Mary Baines about what's on the agenda.
ROSS RAY: We've got two streams. The first stream is a practice stream. So it's to assist lawyers with the reality of a conduct of a legal practice. Things such as document drafting, preparing a case for court, so case analysis, ethics, commercial law, that sort of thing. And the second stream is really a stream that focuses on reform and growth in the region. It involves such issues such as potential legal aid, pro bono work by the profession, continuing legal education, the need to respond to issues of domestic violence, et cetera. So really we are dealing with all sorts of issues relevant both to Australia and New Zealand, but we are doing so in a way that we think will involve and assist the profession throughout the region.
MARY BAINES: So what would you say are the main issues facing the legal profession across the Pacific?
RR: One of the key issues would be continuing legal education. At the moment it is mandatory in only one of the 14 regional countries. It is conducted in other countries but it is not mandatory. The other issue, the other main issue, is as it is in Australia, the introduction of professional standards to ensure the professional is adequately regulated. So they are really the same sorts of issues that we deal with. The importance is that in some of these areas they are so small that they don't have the resources to introduce the systems that they really need. So we are in a position to assist them with that. And through regionalisation, a number of the countries can look at what works, what doesn't work, and what best suits their particular professional needs. All of this is to promote the goals of the association, which is the administration of justice in the region.
MB: Nauru has featured in the news lately over concerns with its justice system. Is there going to be a representative from Nauru attending the meeting?
RR: Look, we are ucnertain about that. We don't think that that is necessary, in that if anyone can get there I think it's good. But the sorts of issues raised by what happened in Nauru, issues that are relevant in any country, and that is the independence of the judiciary and the importance of the rule of law. A strong judiciary and a strong justice system leads to a robust economy. And that's so, not just in Nauru, but right across the region.
MB: I understand there's not actually not any lawyers who are able to represent the public in Nauru at the moment.
RR: Yes, I understand that to be so. And I think there have been going lawyers going across there to assist from time to time. Again, for that to occur, there needs to be, and it's a real access to justice issue. It's very important that people in need can access legal advice. And again that's not just specific to Nauru but it's across all countries and all regions.
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