Consumer credit, debt, personal insolvency and the laws that protect us

As household debt increases and disposable income falls, more and more Australians are experiencing financial stress.

Senior Lecturer Nicola Howell’s PhD research explores how consumer credit, debt and personal insolvency laws work in practice and whether they provide sufficient protection, particularly for those that are vulnerable or disadvantaged.

“Money issues affect people from all walks of life. I’m hoping my research will help improve our laws in Australia, so that people can recover more quickly from financial difficulties. For example, if someone has declared bankruptcy, did it provide them with a fresh start? Did it improve their financial wellbeing? We want to work out what is working, what is not, and whether changes are needed,” Nicola said.

Nicola’s research article, Shutting the courts out: developing consumer credit law when privatised dispute resolution dominates the landscape, won the Banking and Financial Services Law Association (BSFLA) Research Prize in 2018, and has been published in the Journal of Banking & Finance Law and Practice.

As part of her PhD research, Nicola spent six months in The Netherlands meeting with Dutch debt counsellors, government officials, academics, and others working on the same types of consumer debt issues we have in Australia. The Netherlands visit was supported by the QUT Faculty of Law, the Australia Awards Endeavour Postgraduate Scholarship, and the Melbourne Law School.

Nicola has previously invited debtors to complete an online survey about their experiences of bankruptcy, a debt agreement, or financial difficulty assistance, and is currently analysing the results.

In a further phase of her study, Nicola is now inviting practitioners to share their insights about the main options for debtors.

The practitioner survey is anonymous and is relevant for, among others, bankruptcy trustees, debt agreement administrators, financial counsellors, and other people who help over-indebted consumers identity their options. It is also relevant for those who work in research or policy development on personal insolvency or consumer debt issues.

The practitioner survey is open now.

Nicola’s findings will be released upon completion of her PhD through Melbourne Law School.

Need help with debt?

If you or someone you know is struggling with debt, assistance is available via the National Debt Helpline.

ASIC’s MoneySmart website also offers valuable guidance for managing debt.

About Nicola Howell

Nicola researches legal and policy issues in consumer financial services, consumer credit and other consumer transactions, and personal insolvency. Nicola teaches in areas including insolvency, commercial and personal property, consumer, and financial services law.

You can learn more about Nicola and her research and publications in her staff profile.

 

Lawyering and Positive Professional Identities

Lawyering and Positive Professional Identities book coverThe second edition of Lawyering and Positive Professional Identities, co-authored by James Duffy and Anna Huggins, has been published and aims to help law students successfully navigate the demands of law studies and legal practice through the development of positive professional legal identities. The book provides practical, experience-based advice on the development of core skills for legal education and practice.

The new edition has been fully revised, and is an essential companion for law students seeking to establish a successful career in the contemporary legal profession.

Lawyering and Positive Professional Identities is available from the LexisNexis online store.

James DuffyAbout James Duffy

Senior Lecturer James Duffy joined the QUT Faculty of Law in 2009. He completed his Masters of Law in 2011 and a Graduate Diploma of Psychology in 2017. He was made a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy in 2018 and was the recipient of an Australian Award for University Teaching (AAUT) Citation in the same year.

In 2019, James was recognised by the QUT Vice-Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence as the David Gardiner Teacher of the Year.

You can learn more about James and his research in his staff profile.

About Anna Huggins

Dr Anna Huggins joined the QUT Faculty of Law in 2015 and is the Director of Undergraduate Programs (Curriculum).

Her primary research interests lie in the areas of environmental compliance and regulatory technology. Anna also researches in the field of legal education, and explores issues in higher education regulation, curriculum design, assessment practices and student well-being.

Anna is a member of QUT Law’s Ecological Justice and Digital Social Contract research groups, is an affiliate member of the QUT Digital Media Research Centre, and an Assistant Editor of Transnational Environmental Law, a peer-reviewed journal published by Cambridge University Press.

You can learn more about Anna and her research in her staff profile.

Air pollution and the ethics of wearing facemasks

Associate Professor Fiona McDonald

Air pollution is a topical issue in this country and in many places around the world, and disasters involving severe air pollution episodes create a pressing public health issue. Health agencies and governments may face pressure during such emergencies to provide solutions to help protect affected communities. One possible intervention to reduce exposure to air pollution during such crises is facemasks.

Associate Professor Fiona McDonald has led an international team of researchers who have developed a framework to support ethical decision-making on whether governments and health agencies should recommend or provide facemasks to the public.

The ethical framework consists of eight questions that could be raised during air pollution disasters. The researchers argue that clarity around decision-making by governments and health agencies, after using this framework, may help increase trust about the intervention and solidarity within and between populations affected by these disasters and the agencies who provide assistance during air pollution events.

You can read the research paper in the International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction.

About Fiona McDonald

Fiona is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Law and a Co-Director of the Australian Centre for Health Law Research. Fiona’s research encompasses issues related to health governance and has four broad themes:

  • the governance of health and systems (with a focus on rural bioethics and disaster response);
  • the governance of health technologies;
  • the governance of health professionals; and
  • the governance of health organisations.

Fiona’s work has been published in a range of international journals and she has presented at a number of international conferences. You can read more about Fiona in her staff profile.

Dr Evan Hamman to research at the Smithsonian

Dr Evan Hamman

Leeanne Enoch, the Queensland Minister for Environment and the Great Barrier Reef, Minister for Science, and Minister for the Arts, has announced Dr Evan Hamman from the QUT School of Law as a recipient of a Queensland-Smithsonian Fellowship. Evan will work with the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Centre (SMBC) in Washington DC and other leading law and science academics in the US.

Evan will research how Queensland can develop effective legal and policy protections for land birds migrating within the Australo-Papuan region, an area which includes Queensland, Papua New Guinea, East Timor and Indonesia.

The SMBC has considerable expertise in the ecology and conservation of song birds, especially those that migrate between North, Central and South America. Evan will work with these researchers to better understand how the concept of migratory connectivity can be operationalised as a central component of an effective governance response in Queensland.

We congratulate Evan and wish him continued success with his research.

About Evan Hamman

Evan is a Lecturer in the QUT School of Law. He holds Bachelor degrees in law and commerce and a Masters degree in environmental science and law. Evan has worked for NGOs and the Queensland Government on conservation and environmental law issues.

His current research focuses on environmental issues in the Asia-Pacific region including migratory species, Ramsar wetlands, World Heritage areas and the Great Barrier Reef.

You can learn more about Evan and his research and publications in his staff profile.

About the Queensland-Smithsonian Fellowships Program

The program is open to employees of Queensland-based research, educational or cultural agencies. Funding of up to $25,000 is available for successful applicants. The 2020 round of the Queensland-Smithsonian Fellowships Program is open now and closes on 9 March 2020.

Implementing the Queensland Anti-Cyberbullying Taskforce Report

Queensland Anti-Cyberbullying Taskforce Report

Peter Black, Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Law, chairs the Anti-Cyberbullying Advisory Committee for the Queensland Government. In November, the Implementing the Queensland Anti-Cyberbullying Taskforce Report – November 2019 Progress Report was tabled in the Queensland Parliament.

The Report outlines that 19 of the 29 recommendations have been completed. The implementation of the 10 remaining recommendations are underway, with all recommendations on track for completion by the end of the implementation period (October 2020).

Ending Sexual Orientation Conversion Therapy – Health Legislation Amendment Bill 2019

Additionally, at the request of the Health Minister, Peter worked with Queensland Health to convene the Ending Sexual Orientation Conversion Therapy Roundtable.

Last week the Health Minister announced that the Queensland Government has accepted the Roundtable recommendations and introduced the Health Legislation Amendment Bill 2019. This Bill will amend the Public Health Act 2005 to prohibit conversion therapy.

We congratulate Peter on his contributions to these important outcomes.

Peter BlackAbout Peter Black

Peter is an Associate Dean and Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Law, teaching and researching in internet law, media law and Australian Constitutional law.

Peter was the Queensland Director for Australian Marriage Equality and the Equality Campaign. He is also President of the Queensland AIDS Council, on the management committee of the LGBTI Legal Service, and is the LGBT representative on the Inclusive Brisbane Board.

You can learn more about Peter and his research and publications in his staff profile.

The inaugural issue of Law, Technology and Humans has been published

Law Technology and Humans inaugural issueLaw, Technology and Humans is an international, open access, peer-reviewed journal publishing original and innovative research concerned with the human and humanity of law and technology.

Supported by the QUT Faculty of Law, the journal was launched earlier this year alongside the QUT Law Lab and is one of four QUT-supported scholarly journals.

In his introduction, General Editor Professor Kieran Tranter notes:

Law, Technology and Humans aims for something different from the mainstream of technology law scholarship. Rather than repeating analysis born from the dominant narrative, it boldly presents itself as a portal to the multiverse of stories and methods through which to understand, dream, critique, build and live well in the technological present as it, with every planetary rotation, moves towards the technological future.

The foundation issue is in two parts. The first is a collection of papers linked to the themes of the recent symposium: Automation and Disruption in the Legal Profession:

  • Lisa Webley, John Flood, Julian Webb, Francesca Bartlett, Kate Galloway and Kieran Tranter navigate through the manifestations of the technology metanarratives with their imaginings of the future of the legal profession.
  • Kate Galloway, Julian Webb, Francesca Bartlett, John Flood and Lisa Webley take this vision of the adaptive professional and develop a blueprint for a new curriculum and approach to learning within the legal academy.
  • Margaret Thornton writes up a study of the human present of NewLaw practice in Australia – how the decomposition to ‘gigs’, a desire for flexibility, and gender and generational divides are presenting a much more complicated reality than that of the wider discourse.
  • Stebin Sam and Ashley Pearson report on the diffusion and utilisation of technologies in the community legal sector in Queensland, Australia.
  • Felicity Bell and Justine Rogers examine the headline-grabbing technology – Artificial Intelligence. Drawing from social psychology, they build a sophisticated model of a lived, experiential ethics for the lawyer/AI hybrid.

The second part of this issue is dedicated to general articles:

  • Kate Wilkinson Cross places law and technology with the Anthropocene.
  • Hui Chia looks towards the deployment of robo-advisers in the financial services market.
  • Sarah Hook and Sandy Noakes undertake a cartography of Australian employment tribunals and courts, attempting to chart the context wherein social media use by employees provides grounds for their dismissal.

This issue also includes a review of Virginia Eubanks recent book Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor by journal book review editor Faith Gordon.

Call for submissions for the next issue

Submissions are now being accepted for Volume 2, Issue 1 to be published in May 2020.

The underestimation of non-Indigenous suicide in Australia

Professor Belinda Carpentre

Professor Belinda Carpenter

The underestimation of suicide is common in most countries, and suicide statistics of non-Indigenous Australians are underestimated by 15 to 50 per cent.

Professor Belinda Carpenter, in a study conducted with Professor Gordon Tait from the Faculty of Education, interviewed 32 coroners in metropolitan and regional areas of Australia, with the aim of investigating the mechanisms leading to this underestimation.

Their research found that coroners:

  • felt confined to a binary finding of suicide/not suicide, and
  • were reluctant to find suicide to spare grief and/or stigma for the family.

You can find out more about their findings in the QUT News article.

About Belinda Carpenter

Belinda is the Associate Dean, Research in the QUT Faculty of Law. In 2012, Belinda because the inaugural Director of the QUT Crime and Justice Research Centre and was the Assistant Editor of the Crime, Justice and Social Democracy journal. Her two areas of research expertise are sex crimes and death investigation.

You can learn more about Belinda and her research and publications in her staff profile.

Dr Andrew McGee on the therapy and enhancement distinction in regulating germline genome editing

Dr Andrew McGee, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Law, has delivered a thought provoking new paper on the importance of the therapy v enhancement distinction in regulation germline genome editing. This paper has now been published in the leading bioethics journal.

Dr Andrew McGee

Dr Andrew McGee

In a first major study, the UK’s Royal Society found that 76% of people in the UK are in favour of therapeutic germline genomic editing to correct genetic diseases in human embryos, but found there was little appetite for germline genomic editing for non-therapeutic purposes. Assuming the UK (and other governments) acted on these findings, can lawmakers and policymakers coherently regulate the use of biomedical innovations by permitting their use for therapeutic purposes but prohibiting their use for enhancement purposes?

In his paper, Andrew examines the very common claim that the therapy v enhancement distinction does little meaningful work in helping us think through the ethical issues. This claim has significant implications for lawmakers and policymakers who may wish to regulate genomic editing techniques to reflect the findings of this important study.

You can read Andrew’s paper, Using the therapy and enhancement distinction in law and policy, in the bioethics journal.

About Andrew McGee

Andrew is an Associate Professor in the School of Law and is an active member of the Australian Centre for Health Law Research. He has published articles in leading international medical law and ethics journals on palliative care, withholding and withdrawing life-prolonging measures and euthanasia, organ donation, and the ethics of abortion.

You can learn more about Andrew and his research and publications in his staff profile.

Professor Ben White secures ARC Future Fellowship

Professor Ben White, from QUT’s Australian Centre for Health Law Research (ACHLR), is one of four QUT researchers named as Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellows.

Professor Ben White

ARC Future Fellow Professor Ben White

Ben will receive $932,498 to investigate enhancing end-of-life care through a new and holistic regulatory framework. Current regulations are complex and fragmented and can cause distress to patients, families and health professionals.

The project’s aim is to help provide better palliative care, more patient involvement in decisions, reduced patient-doctor conflict and a more efficient health system.

From extensive research, Professor White and ACHLR colleague Professor Lindy Willmott developed and launched the End of Life Law for Clinicians training program. This is a free program to help medical professionals better understand this changing area of law and deal with situations when they encounter them.

We congratulate Ben and wish him continued success as an ARC Future Fellow.

About Ben White

Ben was a foundation Director of the Australian Centre for Health Law Research for six years (2013-2018). He has published extensively in the area of health law, with a particular focus on end of life decision-making.

Ben’s research has had significant impact leading to changes in law, policy and practice. His work has been adopted by parliaments, courts and tribunals, and law reform commissions and has also influenced State and national end-of-life policy and prompted changes to clinical education in universities, hospitals and health departments.

You can learn more about Ben and his research and publications in his staff profile.

What does engagement and impact mean to law academics?

Research engagement and impact have become not only buzz words within the academe and government, but important standards of recognition and achievement for academics who wish to go above and beyond traditional academic roles of teaching, research and administration.

Ilana Bolingford

The Australian Government is set to enter its second iteration of Engagement and Impact (EI), alongside its regular Excellence for Research Australia (ERA) assessment of quality. It is therefore becoming more important to not only understand engagement and impact from a policy perspective but also from the perspective of academics as participants in the research and impact agenda.

As part of her PhD, Ilana Bolingford is investigating how law academics experience forms of research evaluation and performance measures within an Australian context. In particular Ilana is looking at how research engagement and impact is understood by academics and how it is experienced in their day to day working life.

The study is important not only to Law but to other Humanities and Social Science (HASS) disciplines as they tend to engage with end users differently than their counterparts in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines.

Overall, Ilana hopes her research will help law schools (and other HASS schools) understand how their researchers are experiencing research impact which may lead to better training and development resources, cultural changes, better workload practices, and development of appropriate internal university policies.

While Ilana is currently analysing data from 10 semi-structured interviews, she has thus far found:

  • that academics generally have good experiences engaging with end users and community;
  • that workload practices severely impact on their ability to translate knowledge and participate in engagement activities, especially for early career researchers;
  • that they see engagement and impact as much broader than the current definitions as defined by the Australian Government; and
  • that they see teaching and mentoring as significant experiences of impact.

Ilana will be presenting research on her findings in 2020 to several Law Schools across Australia as they prepare for the next Engagement and Impact Assessment in 2024.

Find out more

If you wish to learn more about this research, you can visit Ilana’s published research in e-prints or contact Ilana by email at Ilana.Bolingford@qut.edu.au