On Friday 4 August, the Grand Final of the Mooting Competition of Australia’s First Peoples was held at Gilbert + Tobin’s offices in Barangaroo. This is the fourth year that the competition has taken place. It is a significant event that showcases the advocacy skills of Indigenous law students from UNSW Law and, for the first time, also from UTS Faculty of Law. UNSW Law are keen to develop this partnership further with UTS, and with other law schools, so that as many Indigenous law students as possible have the opportunity to experience mooting in a supportive, yet challenging environment.
All mooters – new or experienced – attend a half-day training workshop before committing to the competition. This workshop reviews legal research skills, demonstrates how to prepare written submissions and teaches mooters to become comfortable with the turns of phrase of advocates. Each team is also allocated a volunteer barrister to act as a mentor and sounding-board as submissions are being prepared. It is thanks to Ms Chris Ronalds SC and the Indigenous Barristers’ Trust that we are able to secure such expert support for mooters.
This year, the mooting problem dealt with succession law and was written by Professor Prue Vines. Even though the mooters ranged from first to fifth year law students, none were advantaged by having previously studied this area of law. The Honourable Justice Julie Ward, Chief Judge in Equity, adjudicated the grand final. Her Honour took the mooters to task, ensuring that they were familiar with the authorities and that they rigorously argued their cases. UNSW's Noah Bedford, the individual winner of this year’s competition, commented that "the quality of this year’s competition was high. Each team effectively navigated a complex legal question and produced fantastic written and oral submissions. Whilst all teams were competitive, not once did anyone lose sight of the broader purpose of the competition – to encourage each other in developing the skills necessary to be effective legal advocates for our communities. Overall, it was great fun!". Indeed, one of the unique features of this competition is the genuine camaraderie that develops within and between the teams, who all look beyond the competition outcome.
(Pictured above: His Honour Judge Matthew Myers AM and law student, Jason O'Neil)
Before the winners were announced, His Honour Judge Matthew Myers AM – himself a UNSW Law Indigenous graduate and judge of the Inaugural Mooting Competition of Australia’s First Peoples in 2014 – addressed the audience. Currently, His Honour is chairing the Australian Law Reform Commission inquiry into the incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. His Honour spoke of systemic problems such as the difficulty for young Indigenous people to accrue sufficient supervised driving experience to enable them to get a driver’s licence. Addressing such an issue would avoid fines and gaol time that can result from driving unlicensed. It is up-coming advocates and leaders such as the mooters who will be well-placed to respond to such injustices in future.
We congratulate all who participated in this year’s competition and acknowledge the on-going, generous support of the many people who made the competition possible. As the student responsible for organising the moot for the second year, we especially acknowledge Jason O’Neil’s (5th year BA/LLB) unstinting efforts to extend the reach of the moot and to ensure its vibrancy.
(Pictured above: law student, Jessica Kitch and the Honourable Justice Julie Ward)
The results of the Mooting Competition of Australia’s First Peoples are:
Bedford, who participated in the moot for the second time said "it is always a humbling experience to be part of a competition that has such strong and genuine support from UNSW Law, other law Faculties such as UTS and from all sectors of the legal community. Whether it is the countless hours that barrister mentors spend sharpening the mooters’ skills or the preparation required by voluntary judges to assess each round of the competition, it’s clear that everyone involved is deeply motivated by a desire to support Indigenous law students in their journeys to create change".