New frontiers of discovery

Isabella Alexander and Ana Vrdoljak. Photo by Shane Lo.

Isabella Alexander and Ana Vrdoljak. Photo by Shane Lo.

In summary: 
  • UTS’s Faculty of Law has secured three, out of nine, 2016 ARC Discovery Project grants
  • The successful projects are ‘Copyright and Cartography: Understanding the past, shaping the future’, ‘Where are Indigenous women in the sentencing of Indigenous offenders?’ and ‘What is a Document?’

“Only nine ARC Discovery Project grants were awarded in Law and Legal Studies across Australia, and the UTS Faculty of Law received three of those,” says former Associate Dean (Research) in the Faculty of Law, Professor Ana Vrdoljak.

Each year the Australian Research Council (ARC) awards Discovery Project (DP) grants to individual researchers and research teams for projects that will contribute to our national strategic research priorities.

The average national success rate for Discovery Projects commencing in 2016 was just under 18 per cent. The success rate for UTS’s Faculty of Law was more than twice as high at 38 per cent.  

“I think it shows that UTS is a really exciting place to be doing research in law at the moment and that the research we are doing is striking a chord in the wider community,” says Associate Professor Isabella Alexander.

Alexander’s project, ‘Copyright and Cartography: Understanding the past, shaping the future’ was one of the faculty’s three successful grant applications.

Her project investigates the history of mapmaking and the copyright of maps both in the United Kingdom and Australia. The Discovery Project funding will enable Alexander to travel to archives overseas and across Australia, attend conferences to present findings, speak to others in adjacent fields and pay for research assistants.

She hopes her work will highlight the way copyright and culture influence each other, and the intersection between private rights and public access.

“Because it’s a historical project, the main focus is to help us understand the world we live in,” explains Alexander. “I think it will help us understand the interplay between legal regulation, the creation and circulation of information and the impact of law on commercial trade.”

Associate Professor Thalia Anthony and Professor Larissa Behrendt’s project, ‘Where are Indigenous women in the sentencing of Indigenous offenders?’ was also awarded funding. This research is aimed at ensuring fair and appropriate sentencing is given to Indigenous women – the fastest-growing prison demographic in Australia today.

For both Anthony and Behrendt, a major component of their project is encouraging the self-determination of Indigenous people.

“We are putting together a committee of Indigenous advisors to help cast research questions, as we want it to be led by Indigenous experts,” explains Anthony.

The third successful DP-funded project is Professor Katherine Biber and Dr Trish Luker’s ‘What is a Document?’. This project will research the changing nature and role of documentation as evidence in litigation. The aim is to ensure the law is adapting to the digital age.

Both Vrdoljak and Alexander agree the faculty’s strong results reflect the collaborative efforts of the whole team.

Says Vrdoljak, “I am really proud of everyone, both my colleagues that were successful and those who were not. I’m also proud of the professional staff including the research development officers, Emily Hammond and Claire Wiltshire who helped put the applications together.”

And following on from the faculty’s two successful DP-funded projects in 2015, it’s another step forward in their goal to become one of the top five law schools in Australia by 2018. 

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