Message from the Dean

Our Law School both reflects its past and embraces the future. It is an institution of perpetual renewal, through our students, staff, alumni and the context in which we work. Educating the next generation is our core mission. As we instil ethics and knowledge of the law, its institutions and processes, our graduates will, in turn, shape, work and live in their future.

Professor Pip Nicholson, Dean, MLS
Professor Pip Nicholson is Dean of Melbourne Law School.

In an age of global digital disruption, we are particularly alert to the risks and the opportunities that digital technology and innovation afford legal graduates. In this issue, we announce two tremendously significant research initiatives that will work on the ethics, equity implications, privacy challenges and transparency requirements for artificial intelligence (AI).

Expanding on our existing expertise in this field, the Centre for AI and Digital Ethics (CAIDE), a collaboration between Melbourne Law School and the Faculties of Arts and Engineering, also supported by the University of Melbourne, will be a critical national voice in the country’s understanding of AI. It will partner with the recently-announced Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and Society, based here in Melbourne at RMIT, and in which four MLS scholars are involved.

Examples of the risks of digital disruption are plentiful. Few have been more chronicled or damaging than the impact it has had on traditional media outlets. In this issue, we look at how those same media outlets are now contending with the impact of defamation laws in a digital age.

We also examine the integration of human-centered design and the law. As you will see, this approach, which places the end user at the centre of design for regulatory, institutional or legal process reform, has myriad implications and benefits. In equipping our students with human-centred legal design skills, we are preparing them to innovate across legal work.

Change is not only digital. Recent Commonwealth Government reforms to higher education funding present a key financial challenge for us and our future students. We are addressing these changes in three ways: containing costs; building income; and working with philanthropists to create opportunities for students to come to MLS and pursue their dreams. As we work through how best to proceed, I look forward to the suggestions and insights of our highly valued community of alumni and friends.

Also in this issue, Associate Professor Andrew Godwin shares key points from a University of Melbourne white paper on the future of personal finance in Australia, Professor Adrienne Stone discusses academic freedom and freedom of speech, and MLS academics comment on India’s historic decriminalisation of homosexuality.

On the back of our Golden Alumni Reunion in October, we recall the remarkable legacy of Sir Zelman Cowen in the centenary year of his birth. And we honour three alumni we have lost in the past few months – Major General Justice Richard Tracey AM RFD QC, Emeritus Professor Louis Waller AO and Dr Michael Andrew AO.

We also celebrate alumni dedication to socio-legal issues of our time. Mina Guli has made extraordinary demands on her body to raise awareness around water scarcity, and Sean Bowden has dedicated his career to working with Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory.

I hope reading this issue inspires and informs in equal measure.

With best wishes

Professor Pip Nicholson
Dean, Melbourne Law School

This article originally appeared in MLS News, Issue 22, November 2019