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History of the Australian Insurance Law Association

The VIth World Congress of AIDA (the International Association for Insurance Law) held in London in May 1982 was the occasion at which the Presidential Council of AIDA invited Michael Gill and John Hastings to form an Australian chapter of AIDA.  The chapter was in fact inaugurated at that meeting with Michael being the first President and John being the first Secretary.

The enthusiastic and forward thinking then president of AIDA, the late Simon Fredericq took them by surprise; however they willingly accepted the invitation.  

In fact John Hastings had attended the 1978 Congress in Madrid. One of the two themes for that Conference was the insurance contract. Following his return to Australia, he agreed to assist Justice Michael Kirby, then Chairman of the Australian Law Reform Commission, with that Commission’s reference on Insurance Law.

Following their return to Australia and over a period of months they had a number of discussions about what they would then do.  There was concern that Australia already had quite a number of organisations which covered both  lawyers and others working in the insurance industry.

Eventually it was decided to gather together a small group of people, all of whom were known to be forward thinking and energetic, to seriously challenge the question; “Why should we establish a branch of the International Insurance Law Association in Australia?”

The planning committee met for the first time on 26 April 1983.  Apart from Michael Gill and John Hastings, present were Syd McDonald (Loss Adjuster), Robert Owen (Leader of the Insurance Broking Industry), Chris Henri (Representative of the Insurance Council of Australia), Frank Hoffmann (a bit of everything in Insurance) and Stephen France (a Leader of the Insurance Industry).  The original meeting felt that the Committee needed a representative of Life Industry and Margaret Roberts from MLC was invited onto the Committee. 

Click here to view minutes from the first AILA meeting.

Those early meetings identified two areas in which AILA could be unique.  As the Australian Chapter of the AIDA, it gave us entrée to the International Insurance Law network.

It provided a meeting place for all persons with an interest in insurance law; a forum for all to discuss and debate insurance law issues.

Robert Owen also pressed the point that the organisation should also distinguish itself by dealing with major insurance law issues in depth and detail and avoid any lobbying role.

The members of that formation committee which was based in Sydney then sought interest from their colleagues and networks.  In a short period of time over 150 people had indicated an interest in the Association.

The original constitution, based on that of the British Law Insurance Association, was adopted on 9 August 1983.

At the first AILA Seminar held in Sydney on 8 November 1983 at the Menzies Hotel, the AILA was officially launched by Justice Michael Kirby.  How appropriate that the launch should be performed by the former Chairman of the Australian Law Reform Commission who is responsible for the first major national enquiry into insurance law in Australia.  That enquiry, of course produced two major reports and recommended bills, which evidently took shape in the Insurance Contracts Act and Insurance (Agents and Brokers) Act.

Mr Justice Rogers of the Supreme Court of New South Wales addressed the Seminar on the topic of fraud, non-disclosure and misrepresentation and Paul Miller, CEO of Recoa (now General & Cologne Re) spoke on ‘solvency of insurers’.  At the time, AILA had 168 members, the budget for the first seminar was a little over $5,000.  At the conclusion of the seminar, AILA’s first Chairman, Michael Gill, invited all present to join him at the bar because something had to done about an unanticipated profit.

No sooner had AILA been established in Sydney than it’s enthusiastic disciples decided that friends and colleagues in the other capitals in Australia should be encouraged to form branches.  In reasonably quick succession, committees were established in:

  • Victoria
    This branch quickly followed on the establishment in Sydney. Ron Beasley of Weigall and Crowther and Geoff Masel of Phillips Fox were encouraged by John Hastings to establish that branch. Much assistance was provided by Les Carver, then CEO of SGIO. Geoff Masel was the first branch President. The early work of the Victorian branch was also sustained by the work of the Australian Law Reform Commission on Insurance Contracts and Insurance Agents and Brokers.
  • Queensland
    John Hastings coordinated the formation of the Queensland Branch in 1986 through local lawyer Andy Anderssen.  Queensland hosted its first Annual Conference to coincide with Expo in 1988.  This was the first Annual Conference at which sponsorship was arranged which ensured a healthy profit for 1988 and subsequent years.
    In 1995 the Queensland Branch combined with the Queensland Law Society and the Queensland University of Technology to host the inaugural Insurance Law Intensive which has since become a very successful annual event at the Gold Coast.
  • South Australia
    The initial approach in 1986/87 was not successful. Frank Hoffmann followed up a little later and encouraged local loss adjuster Trevor Sinclair to assist. Trevor’s success in 1988 was quickly followed by the hosting of their first annual Conference in 1989.
  • Western Australia
    This branch quickly followed on the establishment in Sydney and Melbourne.   John Hastings and Michael Gill coordinated the formation of the West Australian branch through local lawyer Michael Mills.  Ron Griffiths of SGIO was the inaugural branch President, with the Honourable David Ipp (then a Queens Counsel at the WA Bar) vice-President and Michael Mills branch secretary.  The WA branch quickly  attracted over 100 members and achieved early prominence and financial security through popular presentations by interstate AILA members such as Frank Hoffmann, Michael Gill, Geoff Masel, John Snowdon and others.
    The WA branch was active in providing a forum and means for feedback to legislators on insurance law issues following the 1987 stock market crash, the impact of which was especially felt in WA following the collapse of Rothwells.
  • Canberra
    AILA commenced in the ACT in 1994 when Joanne Rees formed a sub branch of the NSW branch of AILA with herself as the first convenor.  Since then it has remained as a sub branch and has had a committee fluctuating in size but consisting of lawyers, brokers and insurance claims managers.  From 1996 to 2000 Doug Galbraith was the convenor and since mid 2001 Nevin Agnew (Minters) has been the convenor.  It has held a number of seminars and functions in conjunction with the ACT branch of the Insurance Institute and its most popular function is the annual lunch seminar at the end of the calendar year in which a number of speakers review developments in insurance law that have occurred in the year.

As the size and work of the Association grew, so did the depth of its education program (as shown in the "events" section on our website).

AILA’s position as a chapter of AIDA was not overlooked either.  The International Congress  following the formation Congress in London was held in Budapest in 1986.  Large numbers of Australians attended that meeting and were warmly welcomed by their Hungarian hosts.  The subsequent Congress in Copenhagen in 1990 was the venue for the promotion of the 1994 Congress to be held in Sydney, Australia.

In his address to the first Seminar of AILA in 1983, Mr Justice Kirby included in his remarks on the Insurance Contracts Act ‘The achievement of a single and fairly brief national statue laying down fair insurance practises, should help the insurance industry to uphold high standards in dealing with its customers.’  The developments around liability and insurance law over the remaining years of the 1980s were a key factor in Australia nominating as the first theme for the 1994 Conference in Sydney ‘freedom of contract and choice of law in insurance.’  AILA’s planning Committee, at its very first meeting recognised the importance of life insurance.  At the 1982 National Congress in London, the Pensions Working Group of AIDA had met and a number of major law firms in London had pensions departments.

Again during the 1980s, the emphasis in Australia was changing from social security based Government funded pensions to private superannuation.  At the same time the life industry was developing substantial investment linked insurance products.  These developments support the original planning committee of the importance of liability insurance.  Accordingly, the organisers of the 1994 Congress in Sydney were warmly applauded by selecting as the second theme ‘life insurance related to pensions both state and private.’  This was the first time that a life topic had been chosen as a major theme.

Sydney was the first time that AIDA had met in World Congress outside of Europe.

The general report for the first theme was the distinguished Australian Lawyer and Law Reformer, Professor David Kelly.  The General Reporter for the second theme was Professor Simone Fredericq who as President of AIDA in 1984 had inaugurated the Australian chapter.

There were two particularly unique matters which the XI World Congress Planning Committee had to deal with.

The 1994 Congress was to be the first one held outside of Europe.  It was a bold move by AIDA.  Given the makeup of AIDAs membership and the fact that many of its chapters are drawn from Eastern European and third world countries, it was recognised that there would be financial difficulties for many of the delegates wishing to come to Sydney.  All of the state branches of AILA agreed to sponsor a person from a deserving overseas chapter.  The Dutch chapter joined in with Australia in also sponsoring a delegate from Eastern Europe.

Secondly, the financial success of that Conference was significantly underpinned by the efforts which AILAs individual members made in inviting overseas colleges to come to Sydney and in the generous sponsorship of so many of our lawyer and insurer members and supporters.

The Congress in 1994 was an unparalleled success and is still warmly spoken of by AIDA’s membership as “the best ever”!

Again large numbers of Australians had travelled to Copenhagen and our members were also well represented at the Congress at Marrakesh, Morocco in 1998, and New York in 2002.

The success of AILA in Australia together with the encouragement from the Presidential Council of AIDA, caused the Australian members to focus on expanding the work of insurance law education and reform in our region.

Delegates from Australia lead by John Hastings played significant roles in encouraging the formation of chapters in Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia and New Zealand.  Members of the Australian chapter have held joint conferences or have assisted in the conference work of these new Asia-Pacific associations.

Brief details of our work in the establishment and encouragement in other chapters are as follows:

  • New Zealand In December 1990 John Hastings attended public meetings in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch to promote the formation of a New Zealand chapter of AIDA, in anticipation of the World Congress in Sydney in 1994, which resulted in the formation of the New Zealand Insurance Law Association (NZILA) in July, 1991.  In October, 1996 AILA and NZILA held a joint annual conference of the two associations in Wellington, NZ at which members of the Presidential Council of AIDA also met. The 2003 South Australian conference is being supported by the NZILA for the first time.
  • Singapore Initial overtures by Michael Gill and John Hastings and subsequent discussions with delegates from Singapore during the Sydney Congress, resulted in application being lodged for incorporation of the Insurance Law Association (Singapore) (SILA) in March, 1995.  Subsequently, AILA and SILA hosted the first AIDA (Asia Pacific) Insurance Law conference in November, 1997.
  • Indonesia There was already an active Insurance Law Association in Indonesia known as Perhimpunan Ahli Hukum Asuransi Indonesia (PAHAI) and, as a result of its admission as a chapter of AIDA at the 1994 Congress in Sydney, AILA and PAHAI agreed to undertake a joint seminar in Jakarta in July, 1995 with the cooperation of the Faculty of Law of Trisakti University, Jakarta.
  • Hong Kong Promotion prior to the Sydney Congress followed by subsequent efforts to develop interest in formation of a Hong Kong chapter, resulted in the incorporation of the Hong Kong Insurance Law Association (HILA) in February, 1996.  As a result of the success of the 1st AIDA (Asia-Pacific) meeting in Singapore, Hong Kong undertook to host a second regional meeting in 1999 but this was later abandoned because of the continuing impact of the Asian financial crisis.
  • The Philippines Efforts by members of AILA and SILA brought about the formation of the Philippine Insurance Law Association Inc. (PILA) in February, 1996.  The impact of the Asian financial crisis the following year restricted the growth of PILA and it has not developed to become a chapter of AIDA.
  • Other parts of the region AILA was in regular contact with existing AIDA chapters in Japan, Taiwan and South Korea, both before and after the Sydney Congress.  Communication with these chapters and the newly developed chapters was difficult following the Asian financial crisis and, since recovery of this situation, the dialogue has not been renewed.


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