November 2012 CPD: defamation, legal issues and insurance for historians

PHA NSW’s CPD session on defamation, legal issues and insurance for historians was held on the evening of Thursday 2 November 2012 at History House. The session was organised by Judith Godden and there were 15 PHA NSW members in attendance.

The CPD was divided into two halves. In the first hour, Peter Fairfield, principal of UBK Lawyers and author of the Easy Guide to Australian Law, gave an overview of the history of defamation. Using the example of David Irving vs Penguin Books, he explained how defamation claims revolved around damage to a person’s good reputation, and the grounds for defence against accusations of defamation. He outlined what historians need to know about defamation law, including the responsibility of oral historians. Peter Fairfield offers a service to historians whereby he can read a manuscript to check for any possible grounds for defamation litigation. For more information, visit

The second hour was presented Damien Miller, the Manager of the Southern Region of Resource Underwriting Pacific, underwriters for our professional insurers Armbro Insurance Brokers P/L. Although Ambro had intended to provide a solicitor to discuss legal issues in relation to our professional indemnity insurance, the lawyer in question was held up in a legal matter so was not able to attend this session. However, he briefed Damien who clearly outlined the legal issues and what cover is offered to historians under Ambro’s Public Indemnity insurance cover. This includes intellectual property, loss of documents, defamation, legal advice and public relations advice.

Damien also indicated that Resource Underwriting Pacific is looking into offering members a range of services relating to insurance cover, including providing members across the PHAs with standard disclosures for publication, advice on contracts, and a plain English fact sheet for the PHA NSW and ACPHA websites that outlines what is offered under the insurance cover provided by Ambro. For more information about Resource Underwriting Pacific visit

Because of the informal nature of this two hour session – members were encouraged to ask questions as they arose – it was a very informative and productive.

Damien has offered to present this session again next year and on a regular basis thereafter to keep members updated about changes to insurance cover. Hopefully the lawyer would be able to attend also, to answer any questions. Perhaps this session could be scheduled on a weekend so members who live in out of town can attend. We will definitely record the next session and make it available as audio download.

Laila Ellmoos

Image credit: Courtroom scene, Sydney: the ‘Philo Free’ civil libel trial, 1 December 1817 (State Library of NSW, Edward Charles Close – sketchbook of New South Wales views, c. 1817, State Library of NSW, PXA 1187, Digital order no. a2821047)