The game changers
Macquarie research is central to law reform
For more than four decades, the Macquarie Law School (MLS) has made a significant contribution to law reform in Australia. A number of members of MLS staff have served with the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) with impact on the nation’s law reform agenda as well as teaching and research programs at Macquarie.
The Foundation Dean of the Law School, Professor Peter Nygh (1933– 2002), served as a part-time Commissioner of the ALRC from 1989–1992. Professor John Goldring (1943–2009) also became an ALRC Commissioner from 1987–1992 and served with the NSW Law Reform Commission from 1997–1998.
In 2008, Professor Brian Opeskin joined MLS, having served as a Commissioner and then Deputy President of the ALRC from 2000–2006. The ALRC’s longest serving President, Professor David Weisbrot, from 1999– 2009, joined the MLS in 2010 and served for two years.
The current President of the ALRC is Professor Rosalind Croucher, who had previously served for over seven years as Dean of Law at Macquarie University and maintains her Professorial status at Macquarie. Her career prior to the ALRC includes more than 25 years in university teaching and management roles: she has lectured extensively in the field of equity, trusts, property, inheritance and legal history.
Professor Croucher joined the ALRC as a Commissioner in 2007 and was appointed President in 2009. In the past five years, she has brought her academic rigour and evidence-based methodology to a number of ALRC inquiries, with impact on laws relating to domestic violence, age discrimination and more recently, disability.
“My research work is like a series of ‘murder mysteries’, in a way. I take a forensic interest in how laws are conceived and designed,” explains Professor Croucher. “As a ‘legal’ historian, with emphasis on the word ‘legal’, I’m a lawyer who likes to find out why a law is the way it is, to help inform how the law should be. I’m then able to make recommendations regarding law reform.”
Professor Croucher was appointed an Honorary Fellow of the Australian College of Legal Medicine in 2004, and a Foundation Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law in 2007. Together with her Macquarie colleagues and predecessors, she has contributed to a long-standing, reflexive relationship between the MLS and the ALRC. Research undertaken at Macquarie has influenced law reform; the appointment of MLS staff to leading ALRC positions has informed scholarship and teaching at the university.
One example is the ALRC ‘Age Barriers to Work Inquiry’. MLS staff member, Therese MacDermott, met with ALRC staff in the early stages of the inquiry to help shape its research focus, drawing on her expertise in employment discrimination. Ms MacDermott’s scholarship influenced the inquiry and her work on age discrimination was extensively quoted. Her role was later formalised through her appointment to the inquiry’s advisory committee.
MLS researchers have also contributed to inquiries undertaken by the Productivity Commission, the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, NSW Legislative Council Select Committees, and the reviews conducted by the federal Attorney-General’s Department. Macquarie law students contribute actively to law reform projects through the University’s PACE Program.
Since the school was founded in 1972, MLS has helped to shape antiterrorism laws, freedom of information laws, consumer law, classifications schemes, and electoral funding expenditure and disclosures. The school remains actively engaged with the legal profession, government agencies and the wider community.
View our Research collaboration and partnership page for more information on research partnerships.