The Peter Nygh Hague Conference Internship
18 August 2011
The Peter Nygh Hague Conference Internship: an opportunity to work in the international law capital
The Peter Nygh Hague Conference Internship was established in 2006 by the Australian Institute of International Affairs (the AIIA) and the International Law Association (Australian Branch) (the ILA(AB)) in memory of the Hon Dr Peter Nygh AM, a graduate of the University of Sydney Law School and a former lecturer and professor in international law at the law school in the 1960s and 1970s. The award pays for a graduate or final year student of an Australian law school to travel to the Netherlands to undertake a 3-6 month unpaid internship at the Hague Conference of Private International Law and makes a contribution to the intern's living expenses while in the Hague.
Funding for the award was donated by Dr Nygh's son and daughter, James Nygh, and Nicola Nygh (who are also both graduates of Sydney Law School) as well as by other members of the Nygh family and by a number of other generous individuals. A grant of $50,000 from the Attorney-General's Department reflects the importance which the Australian government places on the work of the Hague Conference. Allens Arthur Robinson provides administrative support for the award.
The Hague Conference is a permanent intergovernmental organisation based at the Hague in the Netherlands with over 60 member States. Taking into account non member States which are nevertheless party to one of more of the conventions of the Hague Conference, the Hague Conference reaches over 130 countries. It addresses the challenges arising from differences in law between jurisdictions by developing and implementing global legal conventions. The ultimate goal of the Hague Conference is to work for a world in which, despite the differences between legal systems, persons - individuals as well as companies - can enjoy a high degree of legal security. To this end the Hague Conference has developed conventions in the fields of international legal cooperation and litigation, international commercial and finance law and the international protection of children, family and property relations.
Dr Nygh's involvement with the Hague Conference spanned over 25 years from 1975, when he was a member of Australia's first delegation to the Hague Conference, until his death in 2002. He was involved in negotiating and drafting conventions on celebration and recognition of marriages, matrimonial property and child abduction. He also devoted a considerable amount of time to negotiations on the judgments project. Unfortunately it was not possible to negotiate a convention for the recognition of foreign judgments but after Dr Nygh's death a convention on the recognition of submission to jurisdiction clauses was finalised. In his later years after he retired as a judge of the Family Court of Australia, Dr Nygh spent a considerable part of each year working at the Hague Conference often at his own cost. He told me that his work at the Hague Conference was the most important of all of his life work. It is therefore most apt that this award in his memory supports a graduate or student from an Australian law school to undertake an unpaid internship at the Hague Conference.
So far the award has sent 4 young Australian lawyers to the Hague. The interns have worked on a variety of projects at the Hague Conference in fields ranging from family law, evidence and access to justice to cross border flow of personal data, migration, and civil liability for trans boundary harm. They have monitored the application of existing conventions and have assisted in preparing handbooks and responding to queries from States about the application of conventions. The Nygh Interns have also been involved in research and other preparatory work for future conventions. Many of the interns have worked as recording secretary at a diplomatic convention of the Hague Conference in the Peace Palace either after completing their internship or during the internship.
The opportunity to observe the negotiation of an international convention first hand has been a highlight of their internship. I recently received an enthusiastic email from the 2010 Nygh Intern, Kim Pham, who was participating in the Special Commission on the Child Abduction and Child Protection Conventions.
The Nygh Internship provides young lawyers from Australia with a unique opportunity to live and work in the Hague which is home to many of the world's leading international law institutions. In her report on the internship Katie Price, the 2008 Nygh Intern, wrote about living and working in the Hague. She said 'for an international law nerd it is much like nirvana' and she summed up her experience saying 'I had the time of my life thus far.'
One of the objectives of the Nygh Internship is to encourage young graduates of Australian law schools to develop careers in private international law. Both the 2007 and 2008 Nygh Interns continued to assist the Hague Conference with projects after completing their internships.
Although it is not the usual practice for interns to be employed by the Hague Conference, the 2009 Nygh Intern, Alexander Kunzelmann, is currently working on a contract as a legal officer at the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference.
In 2011 the inaugural Nygh Intern, Zoë Justice, was awarded a Hugo Grotius Fellowship to undertake a Masters in Law (LL.M.) at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, specialising in private international law. She firmly believes that her experience as a Nygh Intern was an important factor in being accepted into the LLM programme and in being selected as a Hugo Grotius Fellow.
The fifth Nygh Intern, Melissa Hanks, a 2011 graduate of the University of New South Wales in international studies and law, will commence her internship in September 2011. Melissa's work programme at the Hague Conference will focus on commercial dispute resolution.
The Board of the Peter Nygh Hague Conference Internship is now calling for applications for the 2012 internship. Graduates and final year students of Australian law schools who are 35 years old or younger and who have an interest or experience in one of the fields of law relevant to the work of the Hague Conference are encouraged to apply. Further information about the award and the selection criteria can be found on the websites of the AIIA and the ILA(AB).
Applications for the 2012 Nygh Internship close on 30 January 2012.
Contact: Roland Huang
Phone: +61 2 9351 0364