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Sydney University to offer advanced study online

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, July 31, 2010) – Sydney University has introduced a new Pacific Law course to its Masters program that will be available, online, to students in the region.

Although the course will be not be offered until January, next year, it has sparked interest from many Pacific countries and from the United States mainland.

John Ridgeway, of the Pacific Legal Network, said the course will be the most comprehensive Pacific Law program on offer in Australia.

"We've decided to divide the course into four different parts," Ridgeway said. "The first part deals with studies concerning constitutional public and criminal laws in different parts of the Pacific. The second part deals with international laws and treaties, which are relevant in various jurisdictions. The third part will deal with civil and corporate law across the Pacific, and the fourth part will deal with Australia's role in connection with the various legal systems in the Pacific."

Ridgeway said a wide range of legal experts with experience in the region will be involved.

"I'm co-presenting with Dr Greg Woods, who's a judge with the District Court here in New South Wales," he said. "We're expecting to have a range of people who are either judges or barristers or other people who are involved in public law across the Pacific speaking, as well as Judge Woods and myself, people like Warwick Andrews, who was in Papua New Guinea for a number of years and most recently in Tonga. Coach Goban. We've also got interest from Pithick (sp), from Called Jarvis down here in Sydney, Jenny Haywood-Jones from the Lowy Institute and who runs the Melanesian program there. So it's actually very broad, Craig Miller, a US attorney helping with the US parts of the Pacific. So it's quite a broad pool of talent, but they're all bringing their own passion and expertise and knowledge of different parts of the Pacific to join into the program."

Pacific students can participate online but online is often not as good as face-to-face discussions, Ridgeway said.

"We're going through the mechanics of all that at the moment, trying to work out the best way for people in the Pacific who don't have the bandwidth to access web portals in an effective way. We're trying to work out maybe some methodology attached with getting hard copies of DVDs and different things to them, maybe setting up blogs or online tutorials or discussions forums for different programs. I mean part of the interest I think from our perspective here is to try to present the opportunity to students in the Pacific to learn in a direct way a lot about what is happening in the neighbouring parts of the Pacific. So it's not going to be a course driven by Australia's focus in the Pacific. It's very much going to be a course driven by Pacific generic issues, local issues, issues which neighbouring Pacific jurisdictions should have an appreciation of in relation to other Pacific jurisdictions."

The new program has drawn considerable interest, within and without the Pacific, Ridgeway said.

‘[Interest has been]very strong domestically in Australia because of the paucity of these sorts of courses in relation to the Pacific, which is offered by tertiary institutions and which frankly we're a little bit surprised by to find that there really wasn't much out there, although maybe not so surprised in some way. But I think that when we get the opportunity to fully engage with the likes of the USP, University of Hawaii, and even we've had preliminary expressions of interest from two universities on the mainland in the US to participate in some shape or form as well. So it could actually be quite an event."

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