At the beginning of the Widener’s Sydney, Australia program
, I told my students that I had three main objectives for them: Learn and understand some basic differences in Australian and U.S. Law; embrace and experience the cultural and social aspects of Australia; and of course – Have Fun!
The students in the Sydney program received a variety of experiences for a lifetime. Beyond the classes covering the basics of Australia’s legal system, civil procedure, contract and commercial law and general international comparative corporate law, students had the opportunity though activities outside the classroom to explore the cultural, social, and political aspects of Australia.
The program began with a Sunday evening cruise aboard a ferry from the Darling Harbor in the Chinatown area to Sydney’s historical docks of Circular Quay. From the ferry we had fantastic views of the Sydney Harbor Bridge and the famous Sydney Opera House. We had dinner in the oldest section of the city called the “Rocks” at a quaint beer hall called the Lowenbrau.
During the first week of classes, we took a day trip to visit Canberra, the capital of Australia. We attended a session of the Federal Parliament and witnessed a timely debate between Prime Minister Julia Gillard (Australia’s first female Prime Minister) and the opposing political party on the controversial proposed carbon tax (a tax based on the emissions of carbon). Later, we visited the High Court of Australia (comparable to the United States Supreme Court). At the High Court, we had the unprecedented opportunity to meet privately with the Chief Justice of the High Court, Justice Robert Shenton French. Justice French met with us for over an hour and discussed some of the current judicial issues in Australia.
In the later weeks of the program, we visited the Supreme Court of New South Wales (the state in which Sydney is located) and had to opportunity to witness both civil and criminal matters before “state” and federal courts in Sydney. We also had a tour of the New South Wales Parliament and were given an extensive history of Australia’s political party system and the traditions, procedures and policies of state government.
As a class, we also saw many cultural aspects of Sydney. We toured the Art Gallery of New South Wales and examined an art exhibit of the earliest inhabitants of Australia, the Aboriginals. We visited the Royal Botanic Gardens, founded in 1816 and located on 300,000 square meters along the area known as Circular Quay. The gardens contain thousands of exotic plants and trees and are the home to hundreds of “flying foxes” (fruit bats).
On their own, students visited other sites and attractions of Sydney. On the weekends and days we did not have class, many students traveled to other cities, states and regions of Australia including the cities of Melbourne, Brisbane and Cairns, or visited the natural wonders of the Great Barrier Reef or portions of the Outback. Some students took advantage of being in the southern hemisphere and traveled to New Zealand and the Fiji Islands.
We had our “end of program” dinner early last week at a restaurant called Phillip-Foote, an old Australian restaurant in the “Rocks” area where you cook your own meal on outdoor barbeque grills. As we said our goodbyes, we all realized that our experience in Australia had provided us with wonderful lifetime memories. What each of us learned goes well beyond the law we studied.
Read more at Professor Pollard's Sydney Program blog