LIRC in Mexico

Great food, provocative art and captivating conversations about law and society came together recently in vibrant and fascinating Mexico City.

Between 20 – 23 June some of LIRC’s members attended the Law & Society Association’s annual conference Walls, Borders, and Bridges: Law and Society in an Inter-Connected World, which was held in Mexico City. LIRC hosted a round table titled Justice and the Art of the Wall: The Politics of Mexican Muralism, which was presented by Luis Gomez Romero (LIRC/UOW), Madeleine Kelly (UOW) and Desmond Manderson (ANU). Mural painting has been central to the visual representation of both Mexican modernity and the restructuring of Mexican society from the 1920s onwards. The first great masters of the mural movement – “los tres grandes” Siqueiros, Orozco and Rivera – created art that was meant to be seen by everyone in public places. The mural thus appeared as a form of public art aimed at structuring and criticising ideological discourses in the process of Mexican institutional consolidation after a devastating revolutionary war (1910-1920).

The round table delved into the nexus between discourses around and about justice and the mural art form – as developed in the building of the Mexican Supreme Court-, both in Mexico and beyond Mexican borders. The round table discussed how the meanings of the murals in the Supreme Court both shape and are shaped by the utopian promise of justice and the Janus-faced realities of crisis and judgement.

LIRC members Professor Nan Seuffert (Director) and Dr Niamh Kinchin presented as part of a panel on Narratives of Mobility and Protection. Professor Sueffert presented a paper titled Queering International Law at its Inception: Excavating Narratives of Hospitality and Sodomy in the Right to Travel and Dr Kinchin presented a paper on Administrative Justice and ‘the Right to be Heard’ in UNHCR Refugee Status Determination. LIRC member and HDR candidate Rajendra Ghimire presented a paper titled Improving Access to Justice: An Analytical Study of Traditional Justice (a Case Study of Nepal). LIRC Visiting Professorial Fellow Professor Elena Marchetti (Griffith University) presented a paper on Building Bridges between Australian Indigenous Partner Violence Offenders and their Victims by Using Culture in Sentencing Court Hearings. Thank you to the Law and Society Association for a fantastic conference.

LIRC is pleased to announce that it will host the 2018 Law and Society Association of Australia and New Zealand (LSAANZ) Conference at the University of Wollongong in December 2018. The conference will be co-hosted by SLSA (UK) and CLSA (Canada).  More information to come!


LIRC adds its voice to concerns about recent threats to the rule of law

The Legal Intersections Research Centre (LIRC)  wishes to add its voice to the university based associations, institutions, and organisations which have expressed concern about an order of the US President barring the entry of people from seven Muslim-majority countries to the US, and suspending refugee admissions to the US  (Executive Order 13769, Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States). Less attention has been paid to other orders issued in connection with Mexico and Mexicans: the planned construction of a border wall to be built between the US and Mexico (Executive Order 13767 Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements), and the deportation of Mexicans, through a targetting of ‘sanctuary cities’ (Executive Order 13768 Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States).

There has been considerable reporting of the series of injunctions that had ‘stayed’ the operation of the first of these orders after it was issued on 27 January 2017 in a number of US Federal Districts. The original injunctions involved individuals affected by the order; an  appellate judgment of the US Federal Ninth Circuit Court , in which the states of Washington and Minnesota (joined by more than 90 high profile businesses and a range of community based organisations and US law professors) successfully proceeded against the President . There has been no further legal action brought at the time of writing.

Other actions have now been brought in connection with Executive Order 13768, in two cases that have commenced in the US Federal District Courts in California and Boston: San Francisco v. Trump, which is currently on foot; an application by the Cities of Lawrence and Chelsea (in the Boston area) has recently been filed. The Order to build ‘Mexican Wall’, and to demand payment from Mexico to do so raises other, serious international legal concerns.

The initial administration of the Order Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States resulted in distress, confusion, and international condemnation. Border officials denied entry to those holding valid visas and US green cards, though the administration later suggested that green card holders were to be permitted entry – after further screening. Returning holiday-makers and those who had made family visits to countries of origins were denied entry and detained, and others were pulled off flights in transit countries. Families were split up, and humanitarian and medical treatment in the US was delayed. Residents – including those who had lived in the US for years and dual citizens – were among those detained, handcuffed, and their visas cancelled. The injunctions issued have temporarily stopped this happening, pending any Presidential appeal or the creation of new orders.

There has been intense interest and concern, internationally, about the orders. An Australian based centre, LIRC has a research focus on social justice and the role of the public interest in law. We note that there are often good reasons to ask questions about our systems under law, and to consider whether justice is served by law. The legally problematic nature of the orders, and their social and political consequences, are of deep concern. LIRC is concerned that the orders themselves, and the subsequent responses of the Administration, including  Presidential tweets directed against  judges whose decisions found against the President, represent a challenge to foundational concepts on which liberal democracies such as the US and Australia are based: the rule of law and the doctrine of the separation of powers.

It was with no hint of irony that the new US President, in a speech to the US Department of Homeland Security on 25 January 2017, said that ‘we will restore the rule of law’. Yet his words and actions since taking over the US administration just five days earlier reveal that he not only misunderstands the concept, central to the functioning of liberal democracies, but has acted contrary to its principles. Everyone, including individuals, governments, Presidents, and administrations are bound by law and what is known as the ‘principle of legality’. The rule of law is designed to limit the possibility of unbridled power resting in the hands of one individual. The apparatus of government is subject to checks and balances – that is, that no one individual is able, on their own, to have a grip on absolute power. These checks and balances, or more formally, the doctrine of the separation of powers, reside in the executive, the legislature and the judiciary.

These are familiar concepts in the US, but they are also foundational, though less well understood, in the UK and in Australia. We are deeply concerned that the US President’s words and actions are subverting these principles. There is a reason that governments are required to operate under law, and that bare power – both at a domestic and international level– is resisted.   Without a grounding in law rather than unbridled or unfettered power, the entire edifice and basis of liberal democracies, are threatened.

The President’s orders and memoranda do not just have local consequences, as the attempt to insist on demanding that Mexico pays for a wall to be built by the US on the border between the two countries. In the international sphere, the rule of law demands the prevention and removal of threats to peace, the suppression of acts of aggression and the peaceful solution of conflicts, as established in article 1(1) of the Charter of United Nations, and not an escalation.


We are currently seeking a suitably experienced person for a temporary role as the coordinator of an exciting new volunteer project involving refugee clients of the Illawarra Multicultural Services and UOW law students. Please see below for details about the role.
If you are interested in applying for this role please respond to Dr Niamh Kinchin from the University of Wollongong Law School at (Ph: 02 4221 5725) by COB Friday, 16th December. Please include your CV and a statement (no more than one page) on how your experience fits with the project coordinator role.
Position Title

Project Coordinator

Project Overview

The project will establish a program linking student volunteers from the University of Wollongong’s law school with local refugee families and the community organisations that assist them. A pressing need exists to provide refugees with information on family reunification and other matters. Currently such assistance is significantly under-resourced and refugee families often do not receive appropriate assistance with navigating an unfamiliar legal system, filling out complex forms and gathering evidence.  The project will provide student volunteers who can provide administrative assistance to the clients of Illawarra Multicultural Services, to alleviate the significant backlog of clients. 

List of Tasks
Primary purpose:
Develop and deliver a pilot project to provide volunteer support for refugee communities.
University of Wollongong law students will provide this service to clients of Illawarra Multicultural Services.
Confirming roles and responsibilities for project stakeholders
Setting up project timeline
Creating volunteer resource kit
Developing position descriptions for student volunteers
Setting up volunteer recruitment for students and lawyers
Developing evaluation processes
Developing and coordinating the training program
Overseeing project delivery with the first round of volunteers
Consulting with the project advisory committee
Knowledge and skills:
Project management skills
Skills and experience in working with diverse communities
Strong communication skills
Experience in volunteer management
Experience in working with community-based projects 
Law-related or legal education is desirable but not necessary
Immediate start.
Training to be delivered by mid – late March 2017.
Volunteer project to be officially launched in April 2017.
Total cost 
$6000, to be paid in two instalments at the beginning and at the completion of the project. 
$6000 has been calculated based on 150 hours at $40/hour. This will amount to approximately 21 days of work. 
The project coordinator will need an ABN for the purpose of invoicing.

LIRC Members Receive Community Engagement Grant for Volunteer Refugee Project


Samantha Burgio (Illawarra Multicultural Services), Vimala Colless (Wollongong City Council), Nan Seffert and Niamh Kinchin (LIRC, UOW) and Melva Crouch (Chief Administratrive Officer, UOW)

Refugee families in the Illawarra region will receive free legal and administrative support under a new initiative created by University of Wollongong (UOW) academics called Volunteer legal support for refugees in the Illawarra.

Launching in early 2017, the program was created by Dr Niamh Kinchin and Professor Nan Seuffert from UOW’s Legal Intersections Research Centre (LIRC) and aims to ease the burden on local community groups who already provide important services to help refugees settle into the Australian community.

Project leader, Dr Niamh Kinchin spoke of the importance of their work, ‘Refugees, who have already faced significant difficulties regarding displacement, are faced with a new set of challenges after they arrive in Australia. Refugees often have limited English language skills and are largely unfamiliar with Australian laws and institutions. Our objective is to provide essential assistance to these families around issues such as family reunification and navigating the often complex immigration applications, forms and regulations.’


Enjoying the Community Engagement Grant Breakfast

Working with community partners such as Wollongong City Council, the Illawarra Multicultural Services (IMS), Strategic Community Assistance for Refugee Families (SCARF), Illawarra Legal Services, Wollongong Women’s Lawyers Association and Wollongong Legal Aid, the program will also involve volunteers, local lawyers and UOW law students.


Volunteer legal support for refugees in the Illawarra was made possible by an $8,000 grant, awarded by the 2016 UOW Community Engagement Grant Scheme (CEGS). CEGS provides funding to UOW staff and students for educational, research or outreach projects that partner with Community organisations and groups. Current CEGS projects are ‘innovative, starting small and dreaming big – they create new and sustainable approaches, connections and futures.’

Legal Intersections Research Centre’s International Mentoring Workshops bear fruit: two special editions published

Inequality and Austerity after the Global Financial Crisis: Law, Gender and Sexuality
Oñati Socio-legal Series, v. 6, n. 1 (2016) ISSN: 2079-5971
Editors: Nan Seuffert and Anthea Vogl
Available at

Gender, Time and Place: Intersections between Law and History
[2015] 2 law&history
Guest Editor: Terry Threadgold

An initiative of the LIRC, led by Director Prof Nan Seuffert, and co-sponsored by the International Institute for the Sociology of Law and the journal Social and Legal Studies in the UK, two scholarly international mentoring workshops for women academics were held in 2013 and 2014. The workshops brought together leading senior scholars in the law and society field from the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand alongside promising early career researchers around two themes: Law, Gender, Sexuality: Inequality and Austerity after the Global Financial Crisis and Intersectional Analyses in Law: Time and Place. The workshops were intended to nourish socio-legal scholars and scholarship, deepen networks and contribute to ensuring sustainability of the field. Each senior academic chose an Early Career Researcher (ECR) whose attendance she sponsored for the workshop. Sponsorship included a commitment to mentoring ECRs in producing and refining an appropriate piece of academic work into a scholarly publication. Each presenter had forty-five minutes in which to develop her ideas and argument, with ample time to workshop the papers and draw out the common themes from what might seem initially to be disparate areas of research. ECRs had the opportunity to form international networks in their areas of expertise both at their own ECR level and with a group of leading senior academic women.

Inequality and Austerity after the Global Financial Crisis: Law, Gender and Sexuality

The first event, a Bilkura, or meeting, at the International Institute for the Sociology of Law in Onati Spain on the theme of Gender, Sexuality: Inequality and Austerity after the Global Financial Crisis included scholars from Kent University, Victoria University in Canada, the City University of New York, the University of New South Wales, Auckland University, UOW and others. The papers from the Bilkura have been published in the Onati Socio-legal Series. At the Bilkura, lively debate, critique and analysis considered the ways in which the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), increasing economic disparity and ‘austerity’ measures taken to respond to fiscal imbalances all impact on women and children, and particularly indigenous women and women of colour, as well as other vulnerable members of society, disproportionately. The tightening of welfare provision has been accompanied by increased surveillance and criminalisation of the poor, with a disproportionate impact on women and austerity and privatisation policies have heightened the volatility and contradictions in criminal justice policy. Amrita Kapur’s piece on the role of international norms in catalysing national prosecutions of sexual violence takes the deprioritisation of sex-based and gendered crimes as its point of departure. Kapur argues that the International Criminal Court’s norms and practice work to expose the gendered dimension of state criminal policy, and that such practice has the capacity to facilitate gender-sensitive responses to crime.

Perhaps paradoxically, at the same time as disproportionately disadvantaging women, fiscal stringency has been one of the factors driving a welcome and belated recognition of the unsustainable economic (and human costs) of penal expansion, a theme taken up in Julie Stubbs’ contribution on justice reinvestment and women’s imprisonment, ‘Downsizing Prisons in an Age of Austerity?’ Justice Reinvestment (JR) emerged in the US as a program intended to divert expenditures from the prison system to those communities that generate high numbers of prisoners, to fund services to provide support and supervision for offenders within the community and to prevent crime.

Further, subsequent to the GFC the proportion of wealth funnelled to the top one percent of the population has increased. Ninety three percent of the additional income generated in the United States in 2010 (over 2009) went to the top one percent; CEOs’ annual compensation was back up to pre-GFC levels of 243 times that of the typical worker by 2010, and the benefits of the financial recovery overwhelmingly accrued to the wealthiest Americans. Asta Zokaityte’s contribution on financial literary investigates the neo-liberal economic theory assumptions about individual financial responsibility underpinning the economic policies that led to the GFC. Zokaityte carefully examines the way in which the OECD’s literature on financial literacy fails to attend to gender inequalities produced by financial markets, misattributing irrational financial behaviour to so-called ‘vulnerable consumers’ and women. In particular, she examines the social and political implications of the techniques used to measure financial literacy, and exposes the major limitations of ‘the financial literacy project’ in tackling gender inequality and financial exclusion.

Anthea Vogl’s piece explores aspects of post-GFC austerity policies, highlighting ways in which procedural reforms in asylum seekers processes, presented as ‘cost-saving’ and efficiency measures, simultaneously construct asylum seekers as ‘abusing’ process and time-wasting. She documents the acceleration and truncation of refugee status determination mechanisms in Australia and Canada, which she argues function to exclude asylum seekers who cannot articulate ‘genuine’ asylum claims immediately and efficiently. Like the austerity measures discussed in other contexts, Vogl draws attention to the way in which the acceleration of refugee status determination in both jurisdictions disproportionately affects women and those alleging gender-based harms or violence.

The papers in this collection, taken together, make a case for attention to the gendered impact of current fiscal and social policy. They highlight the often unexpected or unpredictable effects of post-GFC policy at the same time as they reveal the predictable fact that women, indigenous and queer populations are those whom are frequently the most ‘punished’ by neoliberal and austerity reforms. This reinforces Jane Kelsey’s suggestion in her piece in the collection that feminist economic analysis must be ‘mainstreamed’ and integrated into political-economic policies in order to challenge, and even replace, the systemic effects and institutions of neoliberalism and austerity.

Gender, Time and Place: Intersections between Law and History

The second event, a workshop held at UOW on the theme of Gender, Time and Place: intersections between Law and History, resulted in a special edition of the journal Law & History, guest edited by Emerita Professor Terry Threadgold (Cardiff University), a well-known senior academic across disciplines in law and humanities, Visiting Professorial Fellow of the Legal Intersections Research Centre, and recently retired Pro Vice Chancellor STAFF and DIVERSITY at Cardiff University. Terry’s recent work includes innovative solutions addressing issues of gender, mentoring, promotion and career paths in the context of shrinking government funding and increasing pressures to publish and to demonstrate impact resulting from humanities research. Professor Threadgold opened the workshop with an address exploring the crucial role of mentoring and intelligent gender-sensitive leadership and management in developing innovative solutions to support women’s careers in the context of shrinking government funding and these increasing pressures.

This second workshop brought together early career and very senior scholars from Australia, New Zealand, USA and Wales and from the disciplines of History, Law, Cultural and Media Studies, Gender Studies and Social Analysis, and Maori Studies in order to nourish socio-legal scholarship, deepen its networks and ensure its sustainability. Nan Seuffert and the Legal Intersections Research Centre initiated and supported the symposium, Diane Kirkby as Editor of Law and History, provided editorial support and the opportunity for publication and Terry Threadgold, as editor of the Special Issue, worked for over a year to support the mentor/mentee pairs to develop the papers delivered at the workshop for publication.

The first three papers in the special issue, by Seuffert, Macdonald and Suszco, all deal with the complex intersections of gender and race in New Zealand, at different times and against the background of different and diverse histories and legal and regulatory contexts and regimes. All three papers also intersect in exploring the permeability of law to other discursive and institutional formations, and its changing and evolving nature in the context of overlapping and contradictory histories.

The next two papers appear to enter very different territory and to explore remarkably different gendered issues and realities. They deal respectively with rape and with abortion. However, the connections and the parallels with the first three papers emerge as soon as Quilter and Millar begin to unpack the elided and occluded histories of legal activism around these two issues and to re-locate and re-embed the law and its attempts at change in wider socio-cultural and historical contexts. Here, as in the New Zealand cases, histories continue to circulate across time and place and to have effects, performatively enacting gendered difference and gendered harm despite activism and attempts at legal change and reform. Millar’s conclusion that shame and shaming exceed the scope of the law, regulating conduct from outside legal processes in ways which ‘powerfully naturalise … normative values, practices and beliefs’, recalls Quilter’s conclusion about the complex intersections between legal reform, conflicting and ‘jostling’ histories, and the embodied knowledges, attitudes and beliefs that the law cannot control or contain. It also anticipates the work of the final two papers in this collection.

Vines’ paper uses a case study, the experience of a postmistress in Australia in the 1880s and 1890s, to demonstrate and explore the ways in which the NSW Married Women’s Property Acts, regarded as significant acts of legal reform, which came into force in 1879 and 1893, and should have had considerable impact on the way married women were treated, failed to support this particular woman, or to change the way her life unfolded, because the law in this case ‘had little purchase against the dominant cultural ideas and regulations of the Public Service’.

Kirkby’s paper also uses a case study, focusing on the experience of a feminist journalist and peace activist, Jennie Scott Griffiths, a U. S. citizen who was active in Australia around the time of World War One (1914–1918). The paper revisits and reframes in new and different legal and historical contexts the gender difference and positionings available to women at the time, exploring the spatial and temporal frame within which women’s opposition to war occurred. Kirkby’s exploration of the ‘terrain of challenges women navigated’ at this time provides a fitting conclusion to the special issue, drawing together as it does, so many of the intersectionalities of law and history across gender, time, race and place which the papers collectively and cumulatively explore.

In these ways then, the completed and published special issue also continues, and accomplishes, the work of the workshop which engendered it, drawing a number of parallels between feminist historical biographies across law, space and history, race and gender, and the continuing position of women within the global academy with which the workshop began.

Professor Nan Seuffert

Welcome to Legal Intersections Research Centre’s Blog

Welcome to the blog of the Legal Intersections Research Centre (LIRC), which is based at  University of Wollongong’s School of Law. LIRC is an interdisciplinary research centre in law, social sciences and the humanities and in this blog we will be posting about our  research and other commentary. Upcoming LIRC events will also be announced on our Events page. Please click the About Us menu for more information on our Centre’s themes and objectives.

We encourage you to leave comments and hope that you enjoy what we know will be an engaging, informative and interesting blog.

Niamh Kinchin, LIRC


LIRC Christmas Party 2015, Wollongong Sailing Club