UNE Law School ‘ideally placed’ to help build ‘a fairer society’

Published 29 May 2012

Professor Michael Stuckey, the new Head of the School of Law at the University of New England, believes that UNE is “ideally placed” to be a leader in the process of including Indigenous cultural perspectives in legal education and practice.

Professor Stuckey (pictured here), who has returned to his native Australia after 11 years as a legal academic in the UK, said he had noticed “a nationwide shift in the acceptance of the role of the Indigenous community”. “Australia is continuing to become a fairer place,” he said.

His interest in attracting more Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander students to the legal profession, and integrating Indigenous cultural concepts into legal education and practice, began while teaching law at the University of Newcastle before his move to the UK. “I started working with the Aboriginal legal education unit,” he explained, “where my specific role was in the admission and pastoral care of Indigenous students.”

“Inclusion and equality in education are vital for a fair society,” he said. “I don’t see widening access as antithetical to high standards.”

Born in Brisbane and raised in Sydney, Michael Stuckey moved into a medium-sized Sydney law firm practising commercial litigation after his graduation from the University of Sydney. His academic career began at Monash University in Melbourne, and continued at the University of Newcastle, before his move to the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland and then to the University of Glamorgan in Wales, where he was Head of Law. His research interests include legal history, property law, and Native Title, and he is the author of numerous books, book chapters, and scholarly articles.

As a legal historian, he is a leading international expert on an approach to historical research known as “prosopography”, which takes recognisable groups within a society – for example, medical practitioners or adults who went to a private school – as its units of analysis. His paper titled “Late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century English humanism and antiquarianism: the prosopographical method and reflections on historico-legal tradition” is due to be published in the Journal of Legal History.

Professor Stuckey is pleased that “old-world” values in Australian legal practice, such as those relating to client service and professional relationships, are surviving the impact of globalisation – particularly in the regions. He feels, however, that traditional approaches to the business side of legal practices – including those related to business planning and the use of technology – are “in some ways quite outmoded, and a risk for the legal profession”.

“Universities should be providing students with the kind of learning that enables them to be effective and imaginative actors in a changing environment,” Professor Stuckey said. “This includes skills such as the optimal use of information technology.

“UNE has a philosophy aligned to those purposes. It has some exciting plans for developing technology and moving operations into the virtual world, and the School of Law itself has an excellent reputation for innovation in learning and teaching.”

The Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of the Faculty of The Professions at UNE, Professor Victor Minichiello, said that UNE was fortunate in having recruited a law scholar who had gained extensive knowledge of the discipline while working both in Australia and the UK. “Professor Stuckey brings to UNE a wealth of legal knowledge and experience in administrative leadership that will further develop the reputation of UNE’s School of Law,” he said.