2014 Postgraduate Workshop in Public Law

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Faculty of Law, UNSW
Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law
Thu, 2014-07-17 - Fri, 2014-07-18



On 17-18 of August the Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law held the third in its series of biennial public law workshops for postgraduate students. Building on the success of the 2010 and 2012 events, the 2014 workshop saw the most diverse participation of students so far, featuring 19 speakers from 13 institutions in Australia, New Zealand and the United States. The event is an opportunity for postgraduate scholars working in the field of ‘public law’ broadly conceived to meet, network, share their ideas and gain valuable experience both in presenting their own work to peers and staff members from the University of New South Wales and in giving critical feedback to others.

The format of the workshop is based around themed panels of 15-20 minute presentations from the postgraduate students, bookended by two keynote speakers. This year, the event was opened by Professor Kim Rubenstein, Director of the Centre for International and Public Law of the Australian National University, who delivered a personal and engaging talk entitled ‘Citizenship and Membership in Australian Public Law and Public Life’. The event was closed in similar style by the Centre’s own George Williams, whose talk, entitled ‘Looking Ahead: What Should you Do with Your Public Law Thesis?’ gave some strategic and methodological career advice to students – as well as invoking the light at the end of the postgraduate tunnel!

In 2014 the workshop featured panels on rights protection, courts and adjudication, security and exceptionalism, and administrative law and justice, to name just a few. The standard of presentations was very high – as was the level of discussion and engagement amongst students and staff, which was continued over a lively and convivial dinner after the first day’s proceedings.

Ben Golder, one of the event co-convenors:

What I most like about this event is the element of community building. One of my favourite cartoons from The New Yorker is of a young man in an academic wig and gown, having presumably just graduated, calling his parents in a public telephone box. The caption simply says: ‘It is I’. On one level it is a humorous critique of the pretentiousness and conceits of academic life. (Why not, ‘Hi Mum’?). But on another level it is actually quite revealing. Academic study – undergraduate or postgraduate – is all about changing yourself and becoming someone different at the end of the course of study from who you were when you started. This is perhaps most true of doing a PhD thesis, as most of our students will tell you. But one of the myths of doing a PhD is that this process is a lonely, solitary struggle. It can be that but it doesn’t have to be and, more to the point, it shouldn’t be. Intellectual work is best done collectively and collegially. It is in dialogue with others that we develop our ideas and our arguments and, over the course of writing a thesis, become someone else – not just someone with three more letters superadded to our name. The postgraduate workshop is our attempt at the Centre to carve out a regular space for those kinds of communal exchanges and to try and sustain these kinds of intellectual connections. That is what makes postgraduate study worthwhile.

Click here for the Flyer, Program and Abstracts.