For Flinders Law student Kolby Gibbs, a semester of learning has culminated in real-world legal experience on Kangaroo Island.
Last year’s bushfires on Kangaroo Island were the largest in the island’s history. In the midst of the first wave of the pandemic – then the intervening months since – nature has tried to recover, people have tried to move forward, and tourism and other industries are undergoing the gradual process of rebuilding.
Enter the law. The Bushfire Legal Help program is an initiative funded by the Commonwealth and State governments, Community Legal Centres SA (CLCSA) and Legal Services Commission SA (LSCSA) that puts lawyers on the ground where they’re needed most: in places accessible by individuals, primary producers and small businesses who require assistance after fires. The assistance is not means tested, and is delivered jointly by the LSCSA and CLSA.
“I really, really wanted to go on the trip. I’m from Robe… we had the fires near Kingston and also Lucindale.”
And while the free legal advice, assistance and information provided by these lawyers on Kangaroo Island has proven an important lifeline for many, it also presents a rare opportunity for Flinders Law students to get up close with some of the complex legal issues arising from a disaster. As part of her Law in Action topic this year, undergraduate Law student Kolby Gibbs was one of two students selected to take part in the legal outreach trip, and hop on a ferry to Kangaroo Island.
“I really, really wanted to go on the trip. I’m from Robe… we had the fires near Kingston and also Lucindale,” says Gibbs. “Being in that area, with canola farming families and whatnot – my Pa’s a farmer himself – it was really interesting hearing about the legislation around it.”
From footnotes to the ferry
Alongside fellow student Gale Del Pilar, Gibbs had spent about nine weeks preparing for the trip, absorbing as much legal research as she could. In particular, she analysed the Native Vegetation Act (and regulations), and the Landscape South Australia Act. Being able to then cross the ocean, work with lawyers and apply that knowledge in a real-world situation was thrilling.
“[My highlight] was being able to chat with community members, and chat with CFS members about their take on native vegetation clearance as well. It was great,” says Gibbs.
The next step for the students is to complete further research on the issues raised by the trip, and to answer questions that community members may have had. It’s this – the real impact and hands-on nature of studying Law at Flinders – that made Gibbs choose the university in the first place.
“I also really liked that Flinders incorporates the legal practice into their course,” she adds. “It’s the only university that offers a double in [Law and] International Relations and Political Science, too, so it all worked out!”