Precedent (Australian Lawyers Alliance)
ALA’S NATIONAL CIVIL JUSTICE AWARD 2015
This year’s CJA was presented to the President and CEO of Civil Liberties Australia (CLA), Dr Kristine Klugman OAM and Bill Rowlings OAM, by the Governor of Tasmania, Professor Kate Warner, at the ALA’s National Conference in Hobart on 23 October 2015.
The pair founded the CLA specifically to monitor the powers and actions of police, security forces and governments across Australia, and have worked tirelessly for over a decade to improve social justice.
One of their recent successes includes the introduction of the ‘right to appeal’ law into the Tasmanian parliament, which will be mirrored around the nation. This law gives innocent people the chance to appeal wrongful convictions where new evidence comes to light.
In accepting the award, Dr Klugman said that “Civil Liberties Australia drives innovation and initiatives, acting as agents for change in a constipated system where change is often resisted with a passion.”
“We’re always batting our heads against the brick walls of the legal establishment...So it’s rare for such stirrers like us to be so honoured, as we are with this award.”
Dr Klugman commended the work of the ALA, saying, “In some respects, I think reform is harder in civil areas, where the ALA is leading the fight for the little guy, for laws that continue to ensure a fair go, that don’t limit the payouts to injured people because some commercial interests think there should be a cap on alleviating suffering, a concrete block weighing down an accident-injured person struggling to regain their health, their confidence and their feet.”
“I hope that, starting in 2016, the ALA will be one of the leading partners in a national drive, over the next decade, to create ‘better justice for Australia’.”
The CLA is spearheading a campaign, ‘Better Justice for Australia’, which aims to reform the legal system. Dr Klugman used the analogy of banking to describe its longer-term vision: “...think for a moment about how we did banking 30 years ago: remember when you had a passbook, and went into a big, solid bank building and waited for a teller...Can you remember when writing a cheque was a technological breakthrough? Not many cheques are written today...Imagine if justice was just as quick. Imagine if all the effort that has gone into making banking so easy had been put into the legal systems and structures of Australia. Imagine if chief justices were heads of corporations who got paid for the equity and efficiency of the outcomes they delivered and the quality of the customer service they provided. Imagine if equity courts really did equity... efficiently and cost-effectively.”
“Our Better Justice campaign ...is aspirational... it’s asking our national legal leaders the question, ‘why not?’ instead of the question they always ask about change, ‘why?’”
As Greg Phelps, ALA national president, said: “Without the selfless devotion shown by people such as Dr Klugman and Mr Rowlings in the service of promoting human rights, Australian everywhere would not enjoy the freedoms and ideals that we all hold so dear.”
“I can think of no more worthy winners of ALA’s Civil Justice Award than these two people”, he concluded.