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Changing of the Guard: New UNCCA Chair and Deputy Chair

The Hon Neil McKerracher and Dr Dalma Demeter have now concluded their respective terms as UNCCA Chair and Deputy Chair. UNCCA thanks them for their invaluable contributions to the organisation, which have moved UNCCA to new highs.


Below is a recap and update by Justice McKerracher, which UNCCA thanks his Honour for.


CHANGING OF THE GUARD

As the completion of my three year term has arrived and as Deputy Chair, Dr Dalma Demeter has also retired from that office, it is an appropriate time to introduce the new Chair the Hon Justice Brigitte Markovic and the new Deputy Chair Dr Jessica Viven-Wilksch.

It is also a convenient time to review what has happened in recent years with UNCCA and to reveal some plans for the future in which both the incoming Chair and Deputy Chair have participated.


NEW FACES

Justice Markovic practised in corporations, insolvency, commercial and administrative law and is well known and respected from her work as a judge of the Federal Court of Australia.


Jessica’s studies and academic journey show her interest for commercial, international and comparative laws. In her PhD, Jessica wrote on the state of Good faith in Australia and in the European Union. One of her articles was recently cited by the South African Constitutional Court in their long-awaited decision on good faith in contract law.


Jessica began her law studies in 2002 at the University Toulouse I, France and completed her Licence through a year exchange program in UCD Dublin, Ireland. She completed a Master Degree in Comparative Law in 2007 in Germany and Australia before graduating with a Master in International and Comparative Law in France in 2008. Jessica has also worked as a legal researcher for companies and law firms, including a multinational company based in Adelaide.


She started working as a lecturer at Flinders law School before accepting a permanent full-time position as a lecturer at Adelaide Law School where she has been working since September 2015. In this role, she has distinguished herself by demonstrating collegiality, management and leadership skills.


UNCCA is also pleased to welcome to its executive, Dr Robert Walters Lecturer Law, Victoria University, Melbourne and Adjunct Professor, European faculty of Law in Slovenia, Europe. Dr Walters has had wide experience with UNCITRAL topics and has published extensively.


Jessica and Robert are most welcome additions.


ACHIEVEMENTS

It is a convenient time to bring members up to speed with what has happened over the last 3 years or so and what the future hopefully holds.


Tim Castle, the founding Chair and still very actively involved, often speaks of these time capsules as UNCCA 1.0 while he chaired, UNCCA 2.0 during my period and UNCCA 3.0 in the 3 exciting years to come. His ongoing contributions have been invaluable.


I also cannot say enough about the tireless and boundless work of Dr Dalma Demeter whose service to UNCCA as Deputy Chair has been enormously valuable.


REPORT ON STRATEGIC PLAN OUTCOMES (2017-2020)

Overview

The MOU with the University of Canberra had a fruitful three year run between 2017-2020, with UC providing admin support and hosting the May Seminar for 2018 and 2019. Our links to Canberra and the Attorney General’s Department, and DFAT both involved in the creation first, and then secondly the implementation of, international instruments in the domestic sphere are essential to the effective work of UNCCA.

The size of the Executive Committee expanded to spread the load on the managing directors providing voluntary contribution to the daily management of UNCCA. In particular, the Media and Communication portfolio has two additional admin support personnel assisting the Director Jag Sandhu who has done amazing work with the web page https://www.uncca.org/ and the newsletter.

With the termination of the MOU with the University of Canberra and the move of the Executive Office off the UC campus, admin support was procured through casual paid service.

The UNCITRAL Delegates program was also extended. Director Dr Anne Matthew undertook handling the appointment of lead delegates to assist Director Dr Alan Davidson who has been successfully managing the UNLAWS student program for years.

There was a temporary inclusion of a new position focussing on expanding membership and attracting sponsor/corporate members, but that initiative was put on hold with the unavailability of its initial holder.

A new deputy treasurer and a new secretary now ensure the smooth operations of UNCCA.


Stakeholders

UNCCA members are legal practitioners, academics, members of the judiciary, and students, in two main categories of membership: fellows and associate members.

Our membership has remained relatively constant at about 42 members have their membership paid for 2020, with new members joining each year with UNCCA’s events to take the place of those who attended in prior years. With the new website, UNCCA looks forward to achieving greater retention year on year.


Similarly, proposals were made for establishing corporate membership categories for supporter or sponsor organisations and law firms, all of which were put on hold due to the inability to organise face-to-face events during the pandemic.

We engaged however with our members through live and recorded events, group emails distributing the UNCCA Newsletter and inviting expressions of interest to attend UNCITRAL WG Sessions, and by providing substantive content relevant to UNCITRAL fields of law through the UNCCA website.


Our external stakeholders have included

· UNCITRAL and UNCITRAL RCAP

· Law Asia

· AGD

· DFAT

· The legal academic community

· The legal profession

· The judiciary

We have engaged with external stakeholders by providing them with the UNCCA Newsletter, inviting them to participate in UNCCA events, sending delegates to the UNCITRAL WG sessions, and connecting through social media portals.


Funding

The main sources of revenue have been membership fees and ticketed events. Regular expenses are incurred with corporate and financial reporting obligations, accounting, and maintaining a website. Occasional expenses arise with events.


Events

The flagship Annual May Seminar has undergone a steady growth in attendance and consistent engagement and recognition from the UNCITRAL, the AGD, and DFAT over the past three years. Held online in 2020 due to the pandemic-induced restrictions, the conference attracted a large number of registered attendees and 22 presenters, making this so far our largest event overall.


UN Day Lectures Series

The UN Day Lecture developed into a unique series of events held simultaneously in the federal courts (for the most part) of the capital cities around the country, registering great success in 2018 (60th Anniversary of the New York Convention) and 2019 (Cross-Border Insolvency – 25 years since inception). In 2020, the event was merged with the May Seminar as a single UN Day Seminar online conference package. The event was an outstanding success, with a particular focus on the 40th Anniversary of the CISG.


We attracted external organisations to support our May Seminars – ARITA in 2019, CLA in 2020, the Federal Courts for the UN day Lectures and initially pre-COVID for the proposed 2020 May Seminar.


Participation and communication

We sent delegates to all UNCITRAL WG sessions, which is a core part of our functions.


We established a regular Newsletter distributed to UNCCA members four times a year, including reports on current work at the UNCITRAL Working Groups, events announcements, and relevant news.


We created a new website that is aesthetically appealing, is capable of managing membership and events registrations and which also includes a Research Hub that is aimed to become the primary source of information on international trade law for Australians.


We hosted the first online conference package through the new website, accessible to registered attendees only.


UNCCA STRATEGIC PLAN 2021-2023

The board has adopted a new strategic plan, which can be downloaded below or accessed in full here.


IN CONCLUSION

UNCCA was internationally unique when it was, with considerable vision, created. There are now similar models developing internationally. Australia is a vocal and valued participant in the work of UNCITRAL. It is a fascinating exercise to see the growth of an international instrument potentially affecting for the better, trade and commerce between a large number of countries with differing legal systems. This is a growth area internationally and nationally. The work done by UNCITRAL and UNCCA is important and challenging. It has been a rewarding experience from a personal perspective to work with such dedicated and capable people over the last 3 years as Chair. I thank you all for your support and wish the incoming team every success.