2015 australian legal history essay competition

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ABN 55 099 158 620




  1. COMPETITION OBJECT: (a) To promote interest in, and an awareness of, Australian legal history by encouraging students to develop a facility for describing historical events and for recognising their place in broader themes; (b) To provide opportunities for Educators and Students (at several levels) to encounter Australian legal history through development of story-telling skills and exposure to broad themes; concepts underlying the general law; and particular cases of interest; and (c) To recognise excellence in the study of Australian legal history.

  1. THE TASK TO BE PERFORMED BY ESSAYISTS: Entrants in the Competition are entitled, and required, to address any question on Australian legal history. Essays must be about “Australian legal history”. They can be (but need not be) about one of the set questions here nominated by the Society as appropriate. Any “Australian legal history” subject matter will suffice. Possibilities include Australian Constitutional history, the development of Australian law (eg, Contract, Tort, Criminal Law, Property Law, Indigenous Law), Australian legal biography and stories about Australian law and society generally (including stories about colonial engagement with Aboriginal society, the development of parliamentary democracy in Australia, tales of Australian bushrangers and stories about Australian lawyers and their families in times of war).

Essayists in search of a topic are free to address, or draw upon, essay questions set in previous years’ competitions. The Competition Guidelines, and Background Notes, published in connection with earlier Competitions can be accessed via the link under the heading “Essay Competition” on the website of the Forbes Society (www.forbessociety.org.au) .


    1. The Theme:

    2. Set Question No. 1 (Not Compulsory):

    3. Set Question No. 2 (Not Compulsory):

    4. Set Question No. 3 (Not Compulsory):

    5. Set Question No. 4 (Not Compulsory):

  1. SAMPLE QUESTIONS AVAILABLE FROM PREVIOUS YEARS’ ESSAY COMPETITIONS. Essayists may choose to address a question set in previous Essay Competitions. For example:

    1. How can a lawyer defend somebody he or she “knows” is guilty? Discuss the Dean controversy (1895-1896) and/or Tuckiar’s Case (1932-1934): 2008 Essay Competition.

    2. Who owns this land anyway? (Aboriginal land rights and/or an Australian republic): 2009 Essay Competition.

    3. Was it reasonable for shipwrecked sailors bound for Australia to eat the cabin boy to save their own lives? (R v Dudley and Stephens): 2010 Essay Competition.

    4. What is the significance of Australia’s first civil case, Cable v Sinclair? Was it correctly decided? (Reception of English law in Australia): 2013 Essay Competition


    1. The Competition is open to all Students enrolled, at any time during 2015, in an Australian Secondary School or in an “undergraduate” Tertiary Course (defined as a course of study leading to the award of an undergraduate degree by an Australian University or an equivalent course, such as a Legal Practitioners Admission Board Course, approved for the purposes of the Competition by the Society), including a postgraduate practical skills course leading to admission to practice as a lawyer. For those students there are three categories of award; one for Tertiary Students, another for Senior School Students, and a third for Junior School Students.

    2. The Competition is not confined to students enrolled in formal study of history or law.

    3. Tertiary Student Category

Suggested essay length: 2000-4000 words approximately.

Essayist’s Prize: $1,000.00 and a $1,000.00 Abbey’s Book Voucher.

    1. Senior Secondary School Category (Years 11-12 in NSW, and Interstate Equivalents).

Suggested essay length: 750-2000 words approximately.

School prize (for the School of the Winning Essayist): $500.00 and a $500.00 book voucher from Abbeys Bookshop, Sydney.

Essayist’s personal prize: $250 and a $250.00 Abbey’s book voucher.

    1. Junior Secondary School Category (NSW Years 7-10 and Interstate Equivalents).

Suggested essay length: 500-1,000 words approximately.

School prize (for the School of the winning Essayist): $500.00 and a $500.00 Abbey’s book voucher.

Essayist’s personal prize: $250.00 and a $250.00 Abbey’s book voucher.

    1. Each Essayist will receive a Certificate of Acknowledgement acknowledging participation in the Competition. At the discretion of the Society, Merit Certificates may be issued to selected essayists.

  1. ESSAY SUBMISSION DEADLINE: 5.00 pm on Monday, 7 December 2015. Essays should be submitted by email (preferably) or by post. They may be delivered by hand. Essays submitted by email should be sent to secretary@forbessociety.org.au Essays submitted by post should be addressed to:

The Secretary, The Francis Society for Australian Legal History, C/- NSW Bar Association, Lower Ground Floor, Selborne Chambers, 174 Phillip Street, Sydney, NSW, 2000. Essays submitted by hand should be delivered to that address.

  1. ESSAY WINNERS ANNOUNCEMENT: Australia Day (26 January) 2016. The announcement will be made on the web site of the Forbes Society (www.forbessociety.org.au)


    1. The Society is the sole judge of whether an Essay satisfies the requirement that it be about “Australian legal history”.

    2. Each Essayist must certify that his or her Essay is his or her own original work.

    3. The Society reserves a right (without obligation) to accept Essays received after the Essay Submission Deadline and before the announcement of prizes.

    4. The Society reserves a right: (i) not to make any award if, in the opinion of the Council of the Society, no essay merits an award; and (ii) to award more than one prize in any Category (including prizes of lesser value for meritorious essays other than a winning essay) if the Council thinks fit.

    5. The Society reserves a right to publish, or to cause to be published as it sees fit, any Essay submitted and for that purpose to edit any Essay. [The Society anticipates that some essays will be published on its web site, and might be published or extracted in a law journal or newspaper, but does not bind itself or anybody else to publish anything].

    6. The decision of the Council of the Society is final on all questions relating to the Competition, including those relating to the conduct and outcome of the Competition, publication of Essays and editorial work.

  1. RESEARCH HINTS: General Guidelines

      1. There is no “word limit” as such. The “suggested Essay length” indicators for each Competition Category are for guidance only.

      2. Each Essay should include a short bibliography of the main books or other sources consulted by the Essayist in preparation of the Essay, and an acknowledgment of assistance received (eg, from teachers).

      3. So far as possible, Essayists should avoid use of quotations, particularly lengthy quotations and quotations of secondary (as distinct from primary) material.

      4. Any “Background Notes” published by the Society are offered primarily as aids to potential Essayists, the staff of educational institutions, and others supervising students, who may be unfamiliar with the historical or legal issues they canvass or the availability of writings with a “legal history” flavour. They are not intended to constrain any Essayist’s approach to the Topic or any expression of opinion. They should not be read as “model essays” designed to be copied. Their object is to make available to all participants in the Competition information which might be inaccessible to some, and to serve as an encouragement to everybody to consider the desirability of consulting primary sources such as may be found in Law Reports and Hansard records of Parliamentary Debates.

      5. One of the lessons to be learned from an examination of issues that arise in the context of the Essay Questions is the importance of basing any opinion upon particular facts. Judgments can vary significantly depending upon the facts identified for opinion. That is why a useful aid to clarifying thoughts is a “Chronology” which lays bare the sequence of facts thought to be relevant to any question stated for opinion.

      6. To be eligible for entry into the Competition, and the award of a prize, an essay must address a question relating to Australian legal history. An essayist is free to choose any question, provided that it relates to Australian legal history.

      7. Essayists are invited (but not obliged) to address one of the set questions.

  1. BACKGROUND NOTES: Essayists attempting a set question from a previous year’s essay competition will find background notes to that question in or about the Competition Guidelines published for that year. They can be accessed on the website of the Forbes Society.

  1. ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF SUPPORT: The Francis Forbes Society for Australian Legal History acknowledges the support for this Essay Competition it has received from the following institutions:

The New South Wales Bar Association,

ABN 18 526 414 014,

Basement, Selborne Chambers,

174 Phillip Street,

SYDNEY, NSW, 2000.


Tel: (02) 9232 4055

Contact: Chris Winslow,

Publications Manager.

The Law Society of New South Wales,

ACN 000 000 699,

170 Phillip Street.

SYDNEY, NSW, 2000.


Tel: (02) 9992 6033

Contact: Michael Tidball.

The Federation Press,

ABN 67 003 409 318,

PO Box 45,




Tel: (02) 9552 2200.

State Records NSW,

ABN 96 588 554 718,

NSW Department of Commerce.

Western Sydney Records Centre:

143 O’Connell Street,



Contact: Christine Yeats,

Manager, Public Access.

Tel: (02) 8247 8617

Macquarie Law School,

Macquarie University,

ABN 90 952 801 237,

Epping Road,



Contact: The Dean.

Abbey’s Bookshop,

ABN 86 000 650 975,

131 York Street,

SYDNEY, NSW, 2000.


Tel: (02) 9264 3111

Contact: Dave Hall,

The State Library of New South Wales,

Macquarie Street,

SYDNEY, NSW, 2000.


Contact: Kay Payne,

State Library Foundation.

Tel: (02) 9273 1593.

The Legal Affairs Section,

The Australian Newspaper

Date: 10 March 2015

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