A new podcast from the ANU College of Law captures conversations about law in a way that is utterly charming and reminds listeners that lawyers are people too.
The Constitutional – a name that is more a play on words than a strict summary of the subject matter – involves retired Canberra radio host and ACT Citizen of the Year 2017, Alex Sloan, walking around the grounds of the Australian National University with a member of the ANU Law faculty or alumni network. As they take Sloan on their daily constitutional, she probes them about their university years, their love for the law and their careers paths – or career paddock as one guest charmingly calls it.
Like the walks, the conversations go in every direction, from their own law school antics to their respect for the workload students carry today; from the career paths they planned to take, to the forks in the road and the detours they didn’t regret taking. They delve into current affairs like constitutional recognition for Australia’s first peoples, access to justice, the national conversation around citizenship, the impact of sentencing, domestic violence and equality under the law.
Alumnus Justice Richard Refshauge, who this year retired from the ACT Supreme Court Bench, gives a fascinating insight into the thought process that goes into sentencing criminals, and the challenges of balancing that with community expectations. Constitutional law expert Dr Asmi Wood takes Sloan for a walk along the ANU Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage trail, their conversation about Indigenous education and constitutional recognition is detoured to talk about the significant points along the trail.
For students considering study at the ANU, the podcast gives a nice insight into the work life balance that comes from working or studying on a sprawling campus that is dotted with trees, parklands and walking trails, while being in the heart of the national capital. For alumni, it’s a nostalgic reminder of that experience. Many of the faculty are themselves ANU Law alums and they show Sloan around their old stomping ground as they look back on the days when students had more time to get political.
A devout Canberran, Sloan used to interview guests for her afternoon program on ABC Radio Canberra as they walked around the city they love. She called it The Capital Constitutional, so taking the segment to ANU Law was the ideal opportunity to expand on the pun.
Sloan said, walking and talking resulted in a different type of conversation than the ones she would have in a radio studio.
“Actually it started from exercising inside and I thought this is just silly, I should be walking outside and why not walk and talk with someone and record it,” she said.
“This version is a Constitutional constitutional, so part of our conversation with these incredible lawyers at the ANU is about the Australian Constitution as well as the walking constitution.”
The sounds of the occasional bird chirp, footsteps on gravel or a passing car add authenticity to the series, and you even forgive the slight puff in the breaths of the speakers as they climb a hill. It’s a love letter to the law, to the ANU, and to Canberra.