The Laws of Australia, Thomson Reuters’ legal encyclopaedia, is edited by a team of legally trained editors here in our Pyrmont, Sydney office. Today we talk to Legal Editor Geraldine Kurukchi about her legal studies, work background, and experiences working on TLA.
How long have you worked at The Laws of Australia?
Geraldine: Just over three years.
What was your background before joining The Laws of Australia team?
Geraldine: I first completed a journalism degree and went on to work in various media roles while studying law part-time. Before coming to TLA, I worked as a sub-editor with Australian Doctor (a magazine for general practitioners and prescribing specialists) and as a media officer at the federal branch of the Australian Medical Association in Canberra.
What was your favourite subject at law school? Why?
Geraldine: My favourite subject was Media and Entertainment Law, which is probably not surprising given my media background! I found the media law topics so interesting, especially when examining the law in light of contemporary debates about rights and freedoms.
It was also interesting to study the case law in this area and the way in which judges have applied traditional common law to emerging technologies. The legal concept of “publication” in defamation, for example, has been taken by the courts to be medium-neutral, so the owner of a social networking site could be liable for defamatory posts in the same way as the owners of a golf club (Byrne v Deane  1 KB 818) or a local council (Urbanchich v Drummoyne Municipal Council (1991) Aust Torts Reports ¶81-127). Publication is publication whether it’s on a Facebook post or golf club notice board or council bus shelter. It’s a developing area of the law that is exciting to watch!
What do you enjoy most about working at The Laws of Australia?
Geraldine: I love the variety of Subtitles that we are able to work on; one week I am sailing through admiralty law, and the next week I find myself exploring criminal investigation (excuse the puns – as a former sub, I can’t help but take a punning opportunity when it presents itself!).
And I know it has been said often by my colleagues before, but I really do enjoy working with such a fantastic group of people. The TLA team is one of the best teams I have been privileged to be a part of, and it really does make it easier to get through a high level of legal research day in, day out, knowing that I can still enjoy the work with such lovely team members.
What interesting facts have you learnt as an editor?
Geraldine: That an intimate forensic procedure on a person suspected of committing an indictable offence may go so far as the taking of a sample of pubic hair and the taking of a sample by swab or washing from the external genital or anal area. I learnt these delightful facts while working on Subtitle 11.1 “Criminal Investigation”. As editors we all dread embarrassing typos and accidentally publishing “pubic” instead of “public” is by far the typo most dreaded. So you can see why editing this particular Subtitle presented its own particular problems.
What is the most interesting Subtitle you have worked on?
Geraldine: Subtitle 34.4 “Admiralty” was my first exposure to international law and the way in which it is enforced in Australia. I found this Subtitle both interesting and challenging. I had to navigate (again with the puns!) the minefield that is admiralty jurisdiction, which is internationally recognised as a separate category of civil jurisdiction having its own characteristics. It was also interesting to observe the “dualist” interaction between Australian domestic and international laws, which can limit the scope of enforcement of international law in Australia. For example, it is a well-established principle that for an international treaty to enter into force in Australia, it must be incorporated into domestic law by statute. This allows Parliament to modify treaty provisions before enacting enabling legislation, which can clearly be seen in the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act 1991 (Cth).
As discussed in 34.4 “Admiralty”, Schedule 1 of the Act gives effect to the International Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules of Law Relating to Bills of Lading (Hague Rules) (1924) 120 LNTS 187;  ATS 2 as amended by the Protocol to Amend the International Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules of Law Relating to Bills of Lading (Visby Rules) (1968) 1412 UNTS 127;  ATS 23 and the Protocol (SDR Protocol) Amending the International Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules of Law Relating to Bills of Lading of 25 August 1924 (Hague Rules), as Amended by the Protocol of 23 February 1968 (Visby Rules) (SDR Protocol) (1979) 1412 UNTS 146;  ATS 23. And if that doesn’t sound confusing enough, Australia has adopted the SDR Protocol only, which has been further modified by regulation and is contained in Schedule 1A of the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act 1991. So you could forgive a lawyer for asking, what’s the law???
(The answer, by the way, is Sch 1A.)
What other interests do you have outside of The Laws of Australia?
Geraldine: I love musical theatre and reading. Having just finished seven years of legal studies, I can finally tuck into a good book that is not university related. At the moment I’m reading Victor Hugo’s classic text Les Miserables. It’s going very slowly though – I’m just 290 pages in with 990 pages to go!
How do you like to unwind after a day at work?
Geraldine: With my favourite sleuths Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. I love to end the day curled up on the lounge enjoying a good dose of murder mystery. I don’t think I could ever tire of watching Agatha Christie’s little Belgian exercising his little grey cells!
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