Four-decade connection ends: Gary Tamsitt departs Legal Workshop

Gary Tamsitt
Outgoing Director of the ANU Legal Workshop, Gary Tamsitt. Photo:Adam McGrath

A four-decade connection with the ANU is coming to an end for Legal Workshop Director, Associate Professor Gary Tamsitt, as he hands over to Skye Saunders the task of driving the University’s Professional Legal Education g programs.

Associate Professor Tamsitt first joined the Legal Workshop in 1981 - enticed into the program as a senior instructor over a civilised afternoon scotch with the then Director.

While he has had a number of breaks from the program in that time - including eight years in Sydney at Freehills and, concurrently with his Workshop work, stints at Duntroon and Future Land Warfare at Army headquarters as part of his Army Reserve service – he has spent the last 21 years oversighting professional legal programs at the University. 

Appointed director of the Legal Workshop in 1995, Associate Professor Tamsitt found himself embroiled in the midst of academic turmoil and student protests over the introduction of fees – with the GDLP a key target as the first full fee-paying program at the ANU.

“It was a dramatic time with student staging sit-ins over the introduction of fees. But despite the protests, there was and almost doubling of student numbers in the GDLP in that year with graduates wanting to complete their GDLP before a rumoured fees increase,” he said.

It didn’t take long for Associate Professor Tamsitt to start introducing changes to the way the University taught law students to become lawyers, beginning a rolling series of innovations that transformed the way legal training was delivered.

He introduced increasingly flexible study arrangements so students could complete their GDLP while working, organised the program in parts so students could do different courses at different times, making the course available via correspondence (in the 1990s that meant audio tapes!), and then online.

Following a fortuitous encounter - and later alliance with - Professor Paul Maharg at a UK conference, he introduced the Integrated Learning Environment (ILE) Project into the Workshop’s Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice. This brought with it simulated legal practice with students working in virtual law firms.

This student centred learning approach focused on getting students to work in groups and giving students a fair degree of autonomy backed by materials and staff who could help and guide them, rather than be told: “This is what to do, and here’s the knowledge you need.”

Under Associate Professor Tamsitt’s direction and vision the Legal Workshop became one of the largest providers of Practical Legal Training qualifications in the country, according to Dean of the ANU College of Law, Professor Stephen Bottomley.

“He has been at the forefront in the development of advanced online teaching technology and methods, and also in application of the latest in legal professional pedagogy,” Professor Bottomley said.

“In addition to all this, he was instrumental in establishing and in running our programs in Military Law and Migration Law,” he said.

Associate Professor Tamsitt and his wife are heading to their home in Ireland as a base to tour Europe and America.  

BY LYN LARKIN

Updated:  10 August 2015/Responsible Officer:  College General Manager, ANU College of Law/Page Contact:  Law Marketing Team