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Creating the Conditions for Cross-Cultural Sensitivity: An Australian Law Dean's Perspective


I do not know how many Law Deans are able successfully to combine the demands of 'deaning' with a regular role in the classroom; I am not one of them. In my first year as a Dean, in the first full flush of optimism and naivety, I did continue to teach: half a compulsory course in Australian constitutional law, a whole elective course on the High Court of Australia, and one-to-one supervision of four honours theses. But it nearly killed me. And I am sure that neither the students nor the law school benefited much from my over-ambitious attempt to be all things to all people. So I resolved to focus on deaning, confining my classroom appearances to occasional celebrity guest spots or emergency rescues.

In thinking, therefore, about effective techniques for teaching about other cultures and legal systems, I want to take a peculiarly decanal perspective. At first sight, this might seem odd; if he does not teach, let alone teach comparative law, what would he know (I hear you say) about effective teaching techniques? Well, in this now familiar International Association of Law Schools (IALS) '3-5 page' format, I thought I would take the opportunity to try to articulate the kind of contribution that might be made to effective teaching about other cultures and legal systems through the leadership role of the Dean, especially in relation to creating the conditions in which this kind of teaching might flourish.

This paper was presented at the International Association of Law Schools, General Assembly and Academic Program, Montreal, Canada, 29-30 May 2008: Effective Techniques for Teaching about Other Cultures and Legal Systems.

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