Written by Julia Werren
Once upon a time the EBL Building at the School of Law was only populated by accountants, economists and business people. This all changed when in the early 1990s it suddenly became fashionable for universities to create law schools on their campuses.
Some law units were already being offered as part of the accounting and business degrees. One of the lecturers who was teaching law in the accounting and business school was Dr Peter Hemphill. Peter was dead against creating a law school at UNE as were many others. In fact when I was researching the start of the School of Law I came across a letter from a concerned citizen, who noted ‘It seems to me there is already an abundance of law faculties in Australia and an abundant supply of lawyers. Though lawyers are essential to the functioning of a complex society, they are essentially non-productive and a cost to society.’
Anyway UNE persisted and the School of Law was formed in 1993. The staff who worked in the School lobbied hard to get a law library, which is the laboratory for lawyers.
From the beginning, lecturers in law undertook both distance education and on campus teaching. It was so different then though -assignments were posted both to and from UNE and the postmark was used to determine if the students had submitted on time. On-campus student numbers far outweighed external or distance students.
Over the past 25 years the UNE School of Law has continued to thrive from its very humble beginnings. Perhaps the best thing about the UNE School of Law is how it has changed and shaped the lives of its many students.
Interestingly enough one of the School of Law’s biggest critics at the creation stage of the law school, Dr Peter Hemphill, completely changed his tune. He became a firm advocate for the UNE School of Law and the Law Library in particular. When senior management announced plans to move the Law Library’s collection to Dixson Library, Peter threatened to chain himself to the Law Library’s door if anyone dared try. Anyone who knew Peter realised this was not a shallow threat. As a young man Peter was a long haired hippy and did not shy away from some civil disobedience. Suffice to say the Law Library is still located near the Law School and not in Dixson Library.
Peter died in 2006, but his memory continues to live on at the School of Law. Each spring the daffodils that Peter planted in the Gordon Garden at the School of Law bloom with joy. I always know Peter is still with us when I see these magnificent flowers!