First steps into the law for high school students

Published 10 August 2012

You are never too young to take an interest in the law, according to retired High Court Judge The Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG, and with this in mind students from around the North Coast will contest The Hon John Dowd AO QC High School Mooting Competition today.

The Hon Michael Kirby recently recounted a story about how he and Southern Cross University Chancellor The Hon John Dowd AO QC once skipped class when they were students at Fort Street High School, Sydney, to listen to the landmark case of Brown and Fitzpatrick.

“We stole away and listened to the radio in the prefects’ room at Fort Street High,” he said at the Michel Kirby Lecture Series.

“It was the first and only case of citizens hauled before the bar of federal parliament and tried for contempt of parliament, not by order of the court but by the parliament. We were so fascinated by this historical event that we had to listen to it.”

Fired with a passion for the law from a young age the duo went on to distinguished careers, Michael Kirby to the High Court and the Chancellor into politics including time as the NSW Attorney-General and Leader of the NSW Opposition, before becoming a Justice of the Supreme Court of NSW.

The mooting competition will be held at Southern Cross University’s Lismore campus, with the final held in the Law School’s Moot Court and the Chancellor will participate in the judging on the day. According to the Head of School Law and Justice, Professor Rocque Reynolds, the mooting competition is a day for logical argument.

“We all know those kids who are destined to be mooters and lawyers – they are passionate about the questions of right and wrong, of what is fair and just – they love a political debate and enjoy nothing better than arguing these things out with their friends,” she said.

“Mooting is the perfect opportunity to put all this passion, knowledge and skill on display while learning something really interesting about how the law works.”

Mooting involves an oral argument between two teams in response to a particular legal problem. It is similar to debating in that it gives students the valuable opportunity to present arguments orally before a judge, but also enables them to showcase their ability to comprehend and express legal principles. This event is particularly suited to students who are either studying or are interested in legal studies. This year’s mooting question is on personal responsibility while out at a party.

Four North Coast schools – Coffs Harbour Senior College, Kadina High School, Shearwater Steiner School and John Paul College. A team from John Paul College in Coffs Harbour won last year’s competition.

The event is co-hosted by the School of Law and Justice and the Southern Cross University Law Student Society. The winning school will receive a prize of $500, and will be acknowledged through a plaque on the competition’s perpetual trophy. The runner-up will receive a prize of $350.

Other ‘judges’ joining the Chancellor on the bench include Geoffrey Manion (Acting Head of School and Director of Teaching and Learning), Wes Seewald (SCULLS President), Kelly McPherson (LLB Student Representative) and Ben Cochrane (Barrister).

Photo: The Hon John Dowd AO QC.

Media contact: Steve Spinks media officer, Southern Cross University Gold Coast campus, 0417 288 794.