HDR Fieldwork Projects | Law

HDR Fieldwork Projects

Examples of Fieldwork undertaken by HDR candidates during their candidature include:

Marie Hadley’s doctorate investigates the intersection of cultural appropriation, tattoos and copyright law, as stimulated by the recent Whitmill v Warner Bros. case - the litigation involving the rip-off of Mike Tyson’s tattoo by Warner Bros in the film The Hangover: Part II. Marie undertook research in New Zealand in 2012 in the North Island of New Zealand (as well as the Kimberley and the Blue Mountains in Australia) in order to better understand the relationship between indigenous imagery, cultural harm and unauthorised appropriation. In New Zealand, ten ta moko and tattoo practitioners were interviewed about their practices, perceptions of the cultural appropriation of moko in New Zealand, the legal and cultural issues arising out of Whitmill v Warner Bros., and the perceived relevance of legal doctrines to their work, particularly copyright. Interviews were conducted using a semi-structured format and most took place at the practitioner’s workspace. This research will be used to highlight the political basis of cultural appropriation claims, the gap between academic discourses of oppression and the agency of practice, and to reflect on the role of law in regulating subcultural practices. Marie commenced her candidature in 2010 and is supervised by Kathy Bowrey and Ben Golder.

Amanda Wilson is investigating what responses therapeutic jurisprudence provides to women offenders in the criminal justice system and to assess in what ways these responses are helpful or not helpful. In order to address this aim, an institutional setting for therapeutic jurisprudence, the drug court, is being examined empirically. The empirical work involves a comparative analysis of drug court sites (case studies) in Australia and Canada to compare and contrast the ways in which therapeutic jurisprudence is practiced in different jurisdictions and to provide insight into how it has “travelled” in a policy transfer sense. Last year, Amanda went to Canada to complete fieldwork for the two Canadian case studies. This involved visiting the Edmonton Drug Treatment and Community Restoration Court (EDTCRC) and the Toronto Drug Treatment Court (TDTC), where she conducted face-to-face semi-structured interviews with the drug court personnel, other key stakeholders and a small number of women participants. Amanda also conducted non-participant observation of court sessions and pre-court team meetings. Being able to directly observe drug court practices and processes provided her with a rich, first-hand account of drug court procedures and help counter issues of social desirability bias that may have been present in the interviews. The data obtained from the observation will be used to compare the approaches, processes and practices of the case studies in Australia and shed light on what elements of therapeutic jurisprudence are given effect in the drug court setting. Amanda commenced her candidature in 2012 and is supervised by Julie Stubbs and Eileen Baldry.

Sally Richards's research examines the epistemological foundations of bureaucratic legal consciousness. It considers how government decision makers think about law, and how these attitudes are structured according to broader idealisations of knowledge versus experience and truth verification versus information processing valuation. Positioned within legal consciousness studies, it builds on two studies in particular that consider legal consciousness in the context of government. It theory builds empirically, analysing forty open ended interviews with Members of the Refugee Review Tribunal of Australia to construct a central heuristic regarding the core ideals that structure the officials’ legal identification. In 2013 Sally conducted fieldwork at the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, University of Oxford, where she was exposed to a range of socio-legal methods employed in legal consciousness studies. The thesis finds that an understanding of decision maker's moral ideals is crucial for interpreting their underlying legal worldview, and argues that the ideals associated with low legal identification (experiential tacit knowledge and truth verification) are crucial for professional bureaucracy and go further than high level legal identification ideals (explicit knowledge and information processing) to producing substantive justice. Sally commenced her candidature in 2012 and she is supervised by Theunis Roux, Arthur Glass and Simon Halliday.

Tamara Wood’s PhD investigates the scope Africa’s ‘expanded refugee definition’, as provided by Article I(2) of the 1969 African Refugee Convention.  This definition, which extends refugee protection beyond those covered by the international 1951 Refugee Convention, has been widely praised for its humanitarian aspirations, for being more reflective of current causes of displacement,  and for providing inspiration for the liberalisation of refugee protection elsewhere.  Despite this, relatively little is understood about either its scope or its effect on refugee protection in practice.  Tamara’s thesis aims to provide a comprehensive, principled legal interpretation of the African Refugee Convention’s expanded refugee definition.   In 2012, Tamara spent five months in Africa – mainly South Africa and Kenya – interviewing legal representatives, government and UNHCR officials working in refugee protection about the expanded refugee definition.  Interviewees spoke about the legal significance of the expanded refugee definition, its currently poor implementation in practice and some of the interpretative challenges it presents.  Tamara also visited the headquarters of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where she conducted archival research into the drafting of the 1969 African Refugee Convention.  Tamara’s field research led her to conclude that a clear understanding of the scope of Africa’s expanded refugee definition presents both a significant knowledge gap in the field of international refugee law and a genuine need for African refugee law practitioners on the ground.  It has also enabled her to tailor her subsequent research to the take account of the particular challenges associated with refugee status determination in African states.  Tamara commenced her PhD in 2011 and is supervised by Professor Jane McAdam and Associate Professor Sarah Williams.

Gabriela Cuadrado Quesada's research ‘Groundwater governance: examining sustainability, participation, collaboration and accountability on the ground’ explores how legal instruments can best achieve sustainable use, participation, collaboration and accountability in groundwater governance. During the past few months Gabriela has undertaken her fieldwork in Australia, (South Australia and Western Australia) and Costa Rica (North Pacific and Caribbean), where she has been doing interviews with relevant groundwater stakeholders, which include groundwater professionals from national, state and local government agencies, environmental and agricultural non-government organizations, farming, water delivery and other water using businesses. Gabriela commenced her PhD candidature in 2012 and she is supervised by Cameron Holley and Rosemary Rayfuse.

Aline Jaeckel’s research examines if and how the International Seabed Authority (ISA) is implementing the precautionary principle in the context of its mandate to balance seabed mineral mining with protecting the marine environment. This involves inter alia examining whether the ISA’s procedural and institutional frameworks allow for the consideration of risks and uncertainty, as required by the precautionary principle. In 2013, Aline conducted fieldwork at the ISA’s headquarters in Jamaica. She was able to directly observe the decision-making process and power dynamics between organs of the ISA, as well as the way in which some of the environmental obligations established by the ISA are being acted upon. Aline commenced her candidature in 2012 and is supervised by Rosemary Rayfuse and Sarah Williams.

Hannah Harris’ research ‘Evaluating UNCAC in the South Pacific: Insights from Papua New Guinea’ seeks to analyse and evaluate the application of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), using the case study of Papua New Guinea (PNG). A primary goal of the research is to understand the role played by diverse actors from international, regional and domestic spheres who influence the implementation and enforcement of UNCAC domestically. As part of her research, Hannah has conducted semi-structured interviews with representatives from international and regional bodies, national governments and domestic organisations. In June, Hannah travelled to Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea and spoke with national government officials, public servants and civil society group representatives. Interviews focused on experiences with the implementation and enforcement of UNCAC, as well as the unique challenges faced in combatting corruption in PNG. Hannah commenced her PhD candidature in 2012 and is supervised by Michael Grewcock and Sarah Williams.

Nahed Odeh’s research examines the political and constitutional life in Palestine, with the aim of designing new constitutional structures. In order to gain an understanding of what is happening on the ground and to gather different opinions of the stakeholders in Palestine, Nahed conducted field research in Palestine to investigate three fundamental problems, which are currently controversial among the parties in Palestine, as follows:

  1. Political problems arising from the Israeli occupation and its relationship with the PLO.
  2. The Palestinian division, which has negative affects on different aspects of Palestinian life. 
  3. Challenges on the state level, such as the relationship between the PLO and the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Nahed has conducted interviews with Palestinian stakeholders; a group of well-educated political analysts, academics and independents. In addition, two focus group discussions with university students were held. Nahed commenced her candidature in 2012 and she is supervised by Theunis Roux and Arthur Glass.

Peter Blanchard’s research investigates the relationship between Australian industry and government in international trade disputes at the WTO and compares that relationship to the one in the USA.  Understanding the relationship between government and industry in a WTO context is used to explore the effectiveness of Australia’s use of the WTO dispute settlement process to defend Australia’s trade interests.  Peter conducted a series of 35 interviews in Washington DC in April 2014 to explore the nature of the US industry-government relationship.  These interviews included Congressional staff, Obama Administration staff, members of the Washington trade bar, leading trade academics, and senior industry figures.  The data obtained from the interviews will be used as a comparator to similar data obtained from Australian interviews. Analysis of the data will enable an assessment to be made of US and Australian approaches to WTO trade litigation.  Peter commenced his candidature in 2013 and is supervised by Colin Picker, Lisa Toohey and Ross Buckley.

Fadi Rabia’s PhD research aims to learn more about the current dimensions of problems and challenges in the PCP which relate to police corruption, the effectiveness of the laws governing police corruption, and the potential mechanisms for reforming and preventing police corruption. In order to address these aims, the types of law enforcement methods and the nature of police work are examined empirically. The empirical work involves collecting data and analysing twenty five open ended interviews with members of the PCP, public sectors, and other stakeholders. The reason Fadi chose these participants was to ensure that the outcomes his fieldwork would be unbiased. Dancing to different tunes would provide him with a comprehensive perspective of potential mechanisms for reforming and preventing corruption.  Accordingly, he spent about three months in 2014 collecting data for his research, with most of the data collected in Palestine/ West Bank and one interview conducted in Jordan.  The investigation finds that police corruption and misconduct in Palestine is unique. In many criminal cases, police officers have used illegal means for legitimate motives. Perhaps the political atmosphere and the social expectations have steered police officers to slip into corrupt activities. The case studies associated with honour crimes, and the intelligible influence of tribes within the Palestinian territory might give a better and more comprehensive interpretation of the unfamiliar types of police corruption. Fadi commenced his candidature in 2012 and is supervised by Janet Chan and David Dixon.

Fritz Edward Siregar's research tries to explain why the Indonesian Parliament and President attempted to reduce the Indonesian Constitutional Court's authority in 2011. His work focuses on (a) the extent to which Court decisions are based on legal principle and (b) the developing maturity of political parties in viewing the role of the Court in Indonesia.  Fieldwork has been conducted to interview three categories of key informants. The first are members of the Constitutional Court itself. The Justices' sense of how they ought to conduct their role will then be compared with Parliamentarians’ view as representatives of the people.  The third key informant category consists of government officials, including the Minister of Justice, who was responsible for the attempt to reduce the Court's authority. Fritz commenced his SJD candidature in August 2012 and is supervised by Theunis Roux and Simon Butt.