Law a university for the real world


05 November 2019

Eleven QUT law and justice students recently travelled to Vanuatu to work with the Pacific Islands Legal Information Institute (PacLII) and legal clinic students from the Emalus Campus of the University of the South Pacific (USP).

Over two weeks students learned about current issues facing vulnerable communities in Vanuatu, including the LGBTIQA+ community and those affected by climate change.

A significant part of the study tour was spent learning about the various barriers to accessing justice in the Pacific Islands - one of which is the inaccessibility of legal information. Students created subject libraries for the PacLII website to help alleviate this inaccessibility.

PacLII is an online database containing legislation, cases, and other secondary materials for Pacific Island countries. The subject libraries that were created covered the areas of family law, and employment and labour law for multiple jurisdictions including Vanuatu, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Fiji, Cook Islands, Tonga, Papua New Guinea and Kiribati.

As access to reliable internet is a pervasive issue throughout Vanuatu, these subject libraries should streamline the legal research process.

“Legal databases are convoluted and difficult to navigate, so it was really meaningful to know that we had a hand in creating a more convenient way for the people of the islands to access legal information and proactively put the knowledge we’ve gained into action,” said Osanna Fa’ata’ape, fifth year QUT Bachelor of Business/Bachelor of Laws (Honours) student.

Students worked with USP legal clinic students in partnership with V Pride to deliver workshops to the Vanuatu Police Force and Vanuatu Mobile Force. V Pride is a community group that educates, advocates and mobilises LGBTIQA+ in Vanuatu. Workshops involved presentations centred on human rights, discrimination and stigma, and access to justice.

Law students with V Pride community leaders

Students heard from locals calling for global action during a climate march in Port Vila. Ines, the Chair of the Sunae Village Council on Moso Island, spoke about her plans to develop a reef rehabilitation centre.

Other highlights of the trip included a visit to the Australian High Commission to discuss Australia’s significant investment into climate and disaster resilience. Students were also able to gain insight into the legal and institutional responses to climate change in Vanuatu thanks to Oxfam. Oxfam have been successfully implementing collaborative projects with the government that have proven to be effective in the area.


This international placement was an invaluable opportunity for students to learn how access to justice issues manifest themselves in different jurisdictions and to reflect upon these issues within Australia with a different perspective.

Learn more about QUT Law international experiences.