When in Sydney...do as the visiting Roman students do

Law students from the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome were the recent guests of ACU’s Thomas More Law School in Sydney.

For over three weeks 22 students undertook an intensive English language course at ACU’s English Language Centre and studied various aspects of Australian law and legal culture at the Thomas More Law School.

Visiting the District Court in Sydney they observed the workings of a criminal trial under Australia’s adversarial system of law, which is very different to the civil system of law found in Italy.

They also met some of Australia’s leading refugee lawyers and learnt about the Australian government’s management of refugee issues, which gave them the opportunity to compare the legal framework around protecting the rights of refugees in Australia with the protection of refugee rights under Italian and European law.

Deputy Head of the Law School Dr Catherine Renshaw said the Italian students were struck by the way the law program at ACU engaged with the real world of legal practice and how members of the legal profession, including solicitors, barristers and judges, were involved in teaching and mentoring ACU law students throughout their entire degree.  The Italian students also noticed and appreciated a level of informality between students and teachers that is quite different to the relationship between students and teachers in continental Europe.

“The students sat in on lectures from Professor Terence Tobin QC and from Sydney barrister Victor Kline, who runs the Sydney Law School’s pro bono Refugee Law Project with other members of the NSW Bar,” Dr Renshaw said.

The Italian visitors were fascinated to hear about the Law School’s pro bono program, which requires every ACU law student to commit to providing 160 hours of voluntary legal service.

“The program of studies also placed an emphasis on introducing the students to Indigenous legal issues in Australia and to the current debates around reforming the Australian constitution.”

The students found it difficult to comprehend that as recently as the 1960’s, many Indigenous Australians were not allowed to vote.

Renshaw and one of Australia’s Indigenous leaders led a walking lecture around Sydney Harbour as part of the experience. Through the eyes of one of Australia’s first peoples, the visitors saw a different history to the one marked out by the statues of Captain Cook and Arthur Philip and the historic buildings of the Rocks district.

Lateran University’s Professor Michele Riondino who accompanied the Italian students said, “The Sydney Harbour Bridge in this beautiful city is like the Thomas More Law School – a link between students and their potential to further the common good.”

A farewell dinner was held for students and their new Sydney friends at Luna Park – to celebrate a wonderful collaboration between the Thomas More Law School and the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome.


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