Upholding the importance of human rights

Upholding the importance of human rights

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

A number of our Equality Law Program lawyers recently attended the Annual Castan Centre for Human Rights Law Conference. The conference provides a vital health check on the state of human rights in Australia and overseas.

Speakers included Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner Kristen Hilton, Chief Executive Officer Greenpeace Australia David Ritter and author and human rights advocate Tara Moss.

Senior Lawyer Kamna Muddagouni said the conference highlighted the important role that lawyers in Victoria can play in protecting people’s human rights.

‘It was great to hear former Victoria Legal Aid Civil Justice Executive Director and current Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner Kristen Hilton reflect that while Victoria is always lauded for having its own Charter of Rights, this is just a starting point.

‘Kristen reminded the conference’s attendees that Victorian lawyers should remain vigilant as the protections contained in the Charter are only as good as the lawyers that fight to hold decision makers accountable to them.’

Kamna was also inspired by Member, UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Professor Megan Davis.

‘It was such a privilege to hear directly from Coble Cobble woman, Professor Megan Davis, who spoke about the care, consideration and respect with which the consultations were conducted leading up to the Uluru Statement, and to have her bring the Uluru Statement to the conference.

‘Professor Davis reminded me of the importance of thoughtfulness, the reflection required when conducting true consultation for impacted communities, and how truth telling is an essential part of that process,’ said Kamna.

Annual Castan Centre for Human Rights Law Conference 2018
Annual Castan Centre for Human Rights Law Conference 2018

Lawyer Sam Drummond also took a lot away from the conference that could be applied to his work at Victoria Legal Aid.

‘I’ve spent much of the last year in Malaysia working with human rights organisations, so it was terrific to hear from Malaysian women’s rights activist Ivy Josiah.

‘The conversation about human rights in Malaysia is completely different to the one we are used to hearing, and there are clearly lessons we can take from each other.

‘Ivy stressed the importance of taking risks and impressed on us the ‘need to hold hands with our fellow human rights groups’.

‘I think that’s particularly important advice in our line of work.’

Sam was also inspired by Maurice Blackburn’s Josh Bornstein and Greenpeace’s David Ritter.

‘Hearing Josh and David tackle the impacts that massive corporate interests have on everyday life in Australia was insightful and enlightening.

‘It was refreshing to see these social, political and environmental issues being discussed on a broad, structural scale.

‘I particularly enjoyed David Ritter’s analogy that “too often laws are written by those on the riverbank and not by those who are drowning”.

‘Every day at Victoria Legal Aid, we deal with those who are drowning.

‘As lawyers, we can offer our clients a hand to pull them out of the water.

'But as change-makers, we also have the opportunity to put our clients in positions of greater power to create a lasting difference,’ said Sam.

More information

Read highlights from the conference using the Twitter hashtag #humanrights18

Read more about the Annual Human Rights Conference Program 2018

Find out more about our Equality Law Program services

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