Sydney Law School Social Justice Program
Launched in 2009, the Sydney Law School Social Justice Program provides an important opportunity for students to gain practical legal experience and provide vital services to disadvantaged members of our community. The Program is directed by Professor Peter Cashman, appointed in 2009 the inaugural Kim Santow Chair in Law and Social Justice.
The Social Justice Program is presently engaged in or developing a number of projects. These include the following:
- Clinical legal education options for law students through partnership with legal centres, law firms and other organisations involved in public interest law and the provision of legal services to disadvantaged or vulnerable members of the community
- A partnership arrangement with the Human Rights Group at law firm Mallesons Stephen Jaques to identify and conduct significant public interest cases on behalf of individuals or organisations that do not otherwise have the resources or expertise to ensure their rights are protected
- A partnership arrangement with law firm Maurice Blackburn to conduct a significant test case through that firm’s pro bono social justice initiative.
- A proposed joint venture with the Public Interest Advocacy Centre to facilitate mutual involvement in litigation, research, policy work and law reform on matters of substantial public interest
- The publication of an authoritative legal guide to public interest law
- The development of a publicly accessible data base of cases and resource materials on public interest law
- A proposed joint venture with law firm Corrs Chambers Westgarth to develop a publicly accessible data base of cases and resource materials on class actions
A quality learning experience for Sydney students
In 2009 Sydney Law School secured a $50,000 grant through the University’s Teaching Improvement and Equipment Scheme to develop curriculum design guidelines and a model curriculum for the Social Justice Program.
The development of these guidelines and model curriculum will ensure good learning and teaching practice and consistency across all units in the Social Justice Program as it develops over the coming years.
The effectiveness of the Program will be evaluated in consultation with students, clinical legal partners, employers of our graduates, and the wider profession.
The Social Justice Clinical Legal Education Program
As part of the LLB and JD programs, students have the opportunity to gain practical legal experience and provide vital services to disadvantaged members of our community. The Sydney Law School Social Justice Program exposes students to real-world cases, enables them to apply knowledge gained in the classroom, and develops practical skills such as researching, case-writing, and client interviewing.
The clinical legal education program has been created by partnering with community legal centres and other organisations offering legal advice and representation to special interest groups. Students experience first-hand the impact of a pro bono service on the wider community.
A number of established community legal organisations and law firms have entered into partnerships with Sydney Law School. They have an excellent track record in providing much-needed professional legal services to the community. The Social Justice Program l arranges placements for students with various organisations. These include the following bodies and others:
The Environmental Defender's Office (EDO)
The Environmental Defender’s Office is a not-for-profit community legal centre specialising in public interest environmental law. The EDO assists individuals and community groups who are working to protect the natural and built environment. The EDO is part of a national network of EDOs who help to protect the environment .
Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC)
PIAC is a public interest organisation involved in strategic litigation, research and policy work, community legal education and law reform. The Centre is involved in a variety of projects in areas including policing and detention; indigenous justice; mental health; consumer rights and protection and human rights.
Justice Connect was established in NSW to identify areas of public interest where legal assistance may be provided by private lawyers; to match eligible clients with private lawyers prepared to act on a pro bono or other basis and to facilitate co-operation between private and public interest lawyers on public interest issues. Justice Connect has a diverse membership and support base including private law firms, barristers, the Bar Association, the Law Society, community legal centres, and government lawyers.
Refugee Advice and Casework Service (RACS)
RACS is involved in a variety of legal work on behalf of refugees, including applications for protection visas, hearings at the Refugee Review Tribunal and Department of Immigration and Citizenship.
Other clinical legal education opportunities
Sydney Law School has run Australia’s first externship program, the External Placement Program (EPP), since 1996. A highly successful clinical offering, it has been the blueprint for the numerous Australian externship programs that have followed.
In this unit of study students gain the opportunity to work for up to one day per week during the semester in a 'public interest' placement site. In addition, students attend fortnightly seminars which are designed to promote discussion and reflection on a range of issues that may arise during the course of the placement as well as seminar presentations on matters relevant to public interest externships. The unit has a public interest focus which is reflected in the selection of placement sites.
For more information see LAWS3025 External Placement Program in the Sydney Law School Handbook.
Social Justice in action
"Like many students, I came to Sydney Law School seeking a strong legal education. But I didn’t realise that through the Faculty’s External Placement Program I would get to be part of a real legal practice. Working with the Refugee Advice and Casework Service, I had the opportunity to use my legal skills to benefit disadvantaged individuals and groups in our community. I didn’t just study, I participated. I learned things you can’t learn in a classroom. The experience broadened my perspective and changed my career and life goals in ways I never anticipated. The new Social Justice Program will extend clinical legal education opportunities to many more students, giving them the same invaluable chance to both learn and be of service to others." - Matt Costa, BA (Hons) 2006, LLB 2010.
Social Justice Scholarships
Two scholarships are currently available for students undertaking the Social Justice Clinical Course.
- David Burnett Memorial Scholarships in Social Justice: two $3000 scholarships per year.
- Judicial Conference of Australia Scholarship: six $1000 scholarships available per year.
Social Justice Funding
The expansion and continued success of the Social Justice Program will owe much to generous support from alumni and friends.
We need help to cover many significant ongoing costs, and the support we receive will determine the number of student placements we can offer.
To make a donation in support of the Social Justice Program, please contact
Professor Peter Cashman
Kim Santow Chair in Law and Social Justice