Meet Professor Michael Handler, Head of School, School of Private and Commercial Law

Professor Michael Handler joined UNSW at the end of 2005, having worked previously at ANU, the University of Sydney and in IP litigation in private practice.

“In my time at UNSW, I have enjoyed collaborating with my colleagues in private and commercial law – whether that was on joint research projects, organising conferences, co-supervising PhDs, or in my teaching,” Prof. Handler says.

Prof. Handler was the Director of Learning and Teaching in 2012 and the Associate Dean (Education) from 2013 to 2015.

“I’m especially delighted to be taking on the Head of School role at the same time as Theunis and Cameron, and I’m looking forward to working more closely with our excellent team in private and commercial law and helping foster an inclusive and supportive culture within our new school.”

Meet Professor Theunis Roux, Head of School, School of Global and Public Law

Professor Theunis Roux came to UNSW in 2009 from a position as Founding Director of SAIFAC, an independent, donor-funded research institute based on Constitution Hill in Johannesburg, South Africa. Prior to this, he was a Reader in Law and Head of the Law and Transformation Project at the Centre for Applied Legal Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa.

“As a student at the University of Cape Town in the 1980s, I was fortunate to have had inspiring teachers who involved me in their policy and advocacy work on South Africa’s so-called ‘land question’ – the forced removal of three million people under apartheid racial zoning laws,” Prof. Roux says.

As a PhD student at the University of Cambridge in 1993, he penned the first draft of what eventually became the Restitution of Land Rights Act 22 of 1994, South Africa’s equivalent of Australia’s Native Title Act.

“From that starting point in the ‘land rights’ question, my research progressed to constitutional property rights and eventually, comparative constitutional law. I have found UNSW, with its focus on law and justice, the perfect place at which to develop these research interests.

“I have had previous stints as the Director of Postgraduate Research and Associate Dean Research, but nothing so far as hands-on as the Head of School role is proving to be.”

Meet Professor Cameron Holley, Head of School, School of Law, Society, Criminology

Before joining UNSW in 2012, Professor Cameron Holley worked at ANU, Macquarie University, in legal practice in Brisbane, as well as public school education in regional NSW. 

“I have always found collegiality, mentoring and institutional support to be vital to any job, and I found these to be abundant amongst colleagues and the leadership at UNSW Law & Justice.

During his time at UNSW, Prof. Holley served our community in various roles, such as Co-Director of Postgraduate Studies, Human Research Ethics Panel member and as Director of our inter-faculty Connected Waters Initiative.

“Having taken on one of the Head of School roles, I am very much looking forward to working with all my colleagues, as well as Michael, Theunis, and the Faculty Leadership team, as we collectively shape our new schools and faculty.”

What are the priorities for Law & Justice this year?

As noted at the recent Law & Justice Faculty Town Hall, the Heads of Schools have named four priorities for the year.

  1. The first is to work with the professional staff and the rest of the leadership group to contribute to the smooth and responsive operation of the new Faculty structure.

“Much of what we have been doing thus far has been working out how our roles relate to other positions in the new Faculty structure. On the one hand, the role of the Head of School has been reduced, with the previous role divided into three and some functions shifted to the Deputy Dean of Education and the Associate Deans. On the other hand, the paring back of the role will allow us to develop the role in new directions, particularly in relation to staff management and teaching support.”

The Heads of Schools are also hoping that the new Faculty structure will provide an opportunity for more devolved and responsive governance.

“In addition to consultation on proposed University policies, we plan to use the school board meetings as a forum for staff to express their views on matters of collective concern. The University’s rules require there to be at least two such meetings a year. We are going to use the first school board meeting in each of our schools to solicit views on how staff would like these meetings to be run and what they expect to get out of them.”

  1. The second priority is to encourage the development of collegiate school communities which provide a supportive environment for improving teaching quality and in particular, intra-school communication.

“We put the point this way because we acknowledge that the three schools do not correspond to clearly defined sub-dimensions of law as an academic discipline. They are not in that sense hermetically sealed domains for specified types of research and teaching but rather administrative units that can be used to support staff as they pursue their research and teaching interests. Our hope, nevertheless, is that the schools will gradually become sites for staff who do not fit into any of the larger research centres or groups to experience a greater sense of belonging and connection to their colleagues.”

  1. The third priority will be to re-invigorate the myCareer (performance review) conversation process to ensure that it makes a meaningful contribution to staff development and job satisfaction.

“Under the previous structure, responsibility for the performance review process was entrusted to a group of professors. That arrangement was necessitated as our faculty grew to more than 100 academic staff by the start of 2020. This process worked well enough but wasn’t perfect as the conversation leaders were not the designated managers of the staff for whom they were responsible. Under the new system, this problem has been resolved.

“The myConversation process as it is now structured, presents an opportunity, for meaningful, in-depth discussion of all aspects of the work that staff do. The additional benefit, for staff at levels A-D, is that their conversation leader will be the person advising them about promotion. This will make for a more integrated career development system that aligns these two processes.”

  1. The fourth and final priority will be to consolidate the Faculty’s commitment to the shared Bachelor of Criminology and Criminal Justice (BCCJ) program with the School of Social Sciences in the Faculty of Arts, Design and Architecture.

“Since its establishment, a unique strength of the BCCJ at UNSW has been its existence as a shared program between the two Faculties and drawing together expertise in law, criminology and the social sciences more broadly.

This will remain the case, but the Faculty of Law & Justice will become the program authority for the degree and the criminology staff who were based in the School of Social Sciences have moved to the School of Law, Society and Criminology in the Faculty of Law & Justice. Although the program and the staff have moved, we are committed to assisting and enabling the law and criminology academics in the Faculty of Law & Justice to continue to work closely with their social sciences colleagues in the Faculty of Arts, Design and Architecture to deliver this interdisciplinary program.”

Dawn Lo