Defence Force Legal Education Contract Signed

On 31 October 2013, Professor John Williams and Associate Professor Dale Stephens CSM, of Adelaide Law School, travelled to Canberra to sign a contract to provide postgraduate legal education services to the Commonwealth.

After a lengthy tender process, the University of Adelaide, in conjunction with the Australian National University (ANU) (‘the Consortium’), was selected to provide postgraduate legal education services to the military legal officers of the Australian Defence Force (ADF).

DefenceRepresentatives from Adelaide University, The Australian National University and the Commonwealth of Australia (Defence Force Legal) at the signing of the Legal Education Services contract in Canberra.

At the contract signing, Defence was formally represented by Head Defence Legal, Mr Mark Cunliffe PSM and the Director General Australian Defence Force Legal Services, Air Commodore Paul Cronan AM.  ANU was represented by DVC (A) Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington and Dean of ANU College of Law, Professor Stephen Bottomley.

The contract commenced on 14 January 2014 and calls for the consortium to deliver postgraduate education to military officers of the ADF in four core legal fields, namely Military Discipline Law, Military Administrative Law, Military Operations Law and Military Legal Practice. Key Adelaide Law School staff including Associate Professor Dale Stephens, Dr Judith Bannister, Ms Margaret Castles and Ms Kellie Toole will be spearheading the delivery of this training.

The consortium was chosen because both Universities have established reputations for the provision of quality legal education and have sufficient academic staff with expertise in the areas of need to have satisfied the Commonwealth’s requirements. Across Australia, there are over 125 permanent legal officers in the ADF and close to 400 legal officers in the Reserve.

Acting Adelaide Law School Dean, Dr Melissa de Zwart commented that she was ‘delighted that Adelaide Law school has been recognized for its expertise in winning the tender’ and that she was looking forward to seeing this contract and the relationship with ANU get underway this year.

The students could potentially undertake the core legal training in admin/discipline/operations law or military legal practice at either Adelaide or Canberra, although at this stage it is likely that the bulk of the core training will be conducted at ANU.

Professor John Williams (Dean Adelaide Law School), Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington (DVC (A) ANU College of Law) and Mr Mark Cunliffe PSM (Head Defence Legal) principal signatories of the contract.

Permanent legal officers will also be required to undertake additional regular Masters level elective subjects at either University of Adelaide or ANU leading to the granting of an LL.M. It is likely that we will see a number attend University of Adelaide through this means. Such officers are highly qualified graduates of Law Schools from around Australia and will bring considerable practical legal experience to bear in their studies.

The relationship between law and the military is a significant one. Within recent years there has been tremendous interest in many such issues, including scrutiny of (and a High Court challenge to) the creation of a Chapter III Australian Military Court, questions of the intersection between military command powers and the requirements of the fulsome Commonwealth Administrative Law system, the professional commitments of military legal officers when dispensing advice to Command, especially in the context of ongoing operations, as well as the optimal application of the law of armed conflict in operational zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan. This relationship will allow deeper research and analysis by military lawyers, defence scholars as well as Adelaide academic staff and higher degree students in their consideration of such issues.

Adelaide Law School will also be launching a Research Unit on Military Law and Ethics later this year, headed by Associate Professor Stephens CSM (a former Navy Captain and Legal Officer himself). The Unit will coordinate research into applied issues of military law and, in particular, will draw on the well established research tradition that international law has at Adelaide Law school. In recent years, there has been a significant upsurge in academic interest into these areas and Adelaide Law School already has a number of outstanding Ph.D and MPhil research students working on relevant topics. This contract offers a significant opportunity to capitalise on these strengths and create new ones with our new consortium and contractual partners.

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