NSWCCL held its annual dinner last Friday night to celebrate 54 years of civil liberties advocacy and to raise funds for its ongoing work. Around 260 members and supporters were present to celebrate and to hear speeches from two luminaries of the Australian legal fraternity – the Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG and Bret Walker SC.
The gathering was, as usual, a fabulously diverse one including civil libertarian and human rights supporters from many walks of life and activists and advocates deeply engaged in current related causes.
There was a stronger legal contingent than usual, including a goodly number of current or past judges of the High Court, and the Federal and Supreme courts and senior counsels, the President of the NSW Law Society and senior members of the NSW Bar Association - presumably drawn by the stellar legal profile of the speakers.
There were also leading trade unionists, politicians past and present, senior bureaucrats, teachers and academics, journalists and numbers of community and human rights groups.
Most significantly – the gathering included a large number of students and younger civil libertarian supporters. This is heartening for obvious reasons – and, in so far as it reflects the presence and growing influence of younger civil libertarians on the CCL Committee and Executive – it foreshadows a transition already underway in the focus of CCL to civil liberties issues of concern to young people and new approaches to advocacy.
The highlight of the evening was of course the speeches.
The President's message
CCL President Stephen Blanks recalled some of the major issues facing Australians in the past year which had ‘struck deep civil liberties chords’. These encompassed counter-terrorism, indigenous recognition, human rights abuses on Nauru and Manus Island and with NT youth detention, prospective detention / administrative detention, citizenship qualifications for Australian parliament, privacy and government mass surveillance.
Stephen warned that each of these issues ‘eats away at our democracy and makes it more fragile’.
Among the few wins of the past year he flagged the recent striking down by the High Court of the Tasmanian anti Protest Laws and the huge public affirmation of marriage equality – and the now likely passage of the Victorian euthanasia legislation.
For the future, Stephen suggested the forthcoming debate around the passage of the marriage equality legislation might provide some opportunity for a renewed focus on general human rights legislation – if, that is, we can counteract the push for religious-specific protections with the dangerous possibility of unwinding current anti-discrimination protections in Australia. We will also explore the implications of the High Court decision on the Tasmanian protest laws for a challenge to the appalling anti- protest and 'public safety' laws introduced in NSW this year.Read more
NSWCCL President, Stephen Blanks, discussed 'Bending the Rule of Law' at the first session of the Thought Leadership Program 2017 hosted and run by The Law Society of New South Wales.
Stephen was accompanied by NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller, UNSW Gordon Samuels Professor of Law and Social Theory Professor Martin Krygier and Barrister Peggy Dwyer as they discuss security, the rule of law and civil liberties.
For more information on upcoming discussions, visit the Law Society of NSW Thought Leadership page.
Photos below credited to: Jason McCormack
(Left to right) NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks, NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller and Thought Leadership Program Manager Tamara Kamien
NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks
(Left to right) NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller, UNSW Professor Martin Krygier, Barrister Peggy Dwyer, NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks and Law Society President and NSWCCL VP Pauline Wright
Date: Tuesday, 22 August 2017
Venue: UTS Building 5C, Level 1, Room 005. (Building 5C can be found further down Quay St, past the UTS Library)
NSW CCL President, Stephen Blanks contributed as a panelist to Speaker Series II: Protecting our Rights hosted by the UTS LSS and Corrs Chambers Westgarth.
The discussion, is set to focus on the protections of our rights in Australia. In particular, the panel will explain how our rights are currently protected, as well as present arguments for and against a Charter or Bill of Rights. Discussion will conclude with conceptualisations of the future. Specifically, if there are issues or legal matters that may have different outcomes under a binding Bill or Charter of Rights.
- Mr. Stephen Blanks
- Mr. Harry Hobbs (PhD Candidate & Lionel Murphy Postgraduate Scholar)
- Ms. Hwei-See Kay
Jim Marsden welcomes the audience and gave powerful personal insight into his brother John's life
On 1 December 2016 the NSWCCL and the Marsden family hosted the 2016 John Marsden Memorial Lecture. John Marsden was a former President of the NSWCCL, former President of the NSW Law Society and activist for LGBTIQ rights and civil liberties. The event was held at the Masonic Centre in Sydney. It was a particularly successful and well-attended event, with over 120 people. Jim Marsden welcomed the audience and gave a powerful personal insight into his brother John's life, which was so tragically damaged by society's then deeply hostile attitude to homosexuals. Read more here.
Pauline Wright, Vice President of the NSWCCL and President elect of the New South Wales Law Society, spoke briefly of her experience as a young lawyer working for John Marsden, before introducing The Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG (an honorary life member of NSWCCL.)
Michael Kirby began with some thoughts on his friend John Marsden, including that John had chosen to be more “in your face” about his sexuality than others at the time.
Kirby's speech (SEE FULL SPEECH HERE) reminded us of the contribution of John Marsden to the education of LGBTIQ students, noting that attendees at the lecture included recipients of scholarships that he established at the University of Western Sydney.
He mentioned prior John Marsden memorial lectures, by Anand Grover, Professor Jenni Millbank and then DPP Nick Cowdery (now an active member of the NSWCCL Committee). He thanked Nick Cowdery for his presence at this lecture.
Michael’s topic was John Marsden, LGBTIQ Rights today: the Ongoing Challenge for Equality. He delivered a clear and illuminating update on LGBTIQ rights issues from an international perspective, organized around a summary of the good news, the bad news and breaking news.
The good news concerns the greater acceptance of LGBTIQ rights and the important legislative improvements that have occurred in many countries in recent years. He noted that in the last 16 years, a very short time relatively speaking, many countries have enacted laws for marriage equality.
Sadly in Australia, out of step with other advanced democracies around the world, we do not yet have marriage equality. Michael Kirby’s reaffirmed his well-known opposition to the plebiscite and listed many other important legislative changes that have not required a plebiscite. Neither should marriage equality. Michael considered that with the blocking of the plebiscite, marriage equality in Australia is certainly a few more years away.
In his summary of the bad news he drew particular attention to the disturbing fact that in many countries around the world, including many Commonwealth countries, violence against LGBTIQ people is endemic.
As breaking news news, Michael reported on a recent important Human Rights Council resolution establishing the appointment of an expert to investigate violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
It was not an uncontested outcome. African nations in early November forced a vote on whether the appointment of the expert should be delayed. Thankfully that resolution was blocked. However, the vote in favour of the appointment of the expert was close. Several countries abstained or failed to vote. If they had voted, it is entirely possible the vote may have gone the other way.
This is a sobering situation, given that this issue is not about marriage equality or other rights, but violence against LGBTIQ people - a fundamental right that people should not fear violence just because of their sexual orientation.
The audience response to Michael's speech made it clear that they appreciated his informative summary of the state of LGBTIQ rights around the world.
Louise Marsden (one of Johns sisters) gave a vote of thanks to Michael Kirby. In passing she noted their Catholic father's injunction that she and her siblings should not only love well, but love whoever they choose.
The evening finished in a convivial atmosphere, sharing drinks and canapés with old and new friends. It was a fitting reminder of the trail blazing work of John Marsden.
We would like to express our sincere thanks to the Marsden family for supporting the evening.
NSWCCL invites you to
The NSWCCL Annual Fundraising Dinner 2015
Date: Friday 31 July, 6:30pm for 7pm sit down
Venue: Sky Phoenix Restaurant, Westfield Plaza, Sydney
Ticket prices: $110 for members, $120 for non-members, $1320 for a table of 12 people
We are delighted that the 2015 key note civil liberties address will be given by
Professor Gillian Triggs
President of the Australian Human Rights Commission.
In her current role Professor Triggs has been a strong and fearless advocate for human rights in an extraordinarily challenging context.
She has had a stellar academic career - including Dean of the Faculty of Law and Challis Professor of International Law at the University of Sydney; Director of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law and a Governor of the College of Law. She was formerly a Barrister with Seven Wentworth Chambers.
She has combined her academic career with international commercial legal practice and extensive work with governments and international organisations. Her longstanding commitment to legal education has in recent time been focussed on the Commissions' education programs to inform Australians – and especially children – about their fundamental human rights.
Gillian comes well qualified to speak with conviction and passion on current civil liberties and human rights issues.
NOTE Ticket prices exclude alcoholic drinks, bar will be operating
This event was held on Wednesday 29 April.
NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks will be speaking at this meeting at the University of Sydney. NSWCCL are participating in this event because of the importance of protecting free speech and the right to protest on university campuses - read more about our position in the media coverage of the event.
On 11 March, students and human-rights activists interrupted a speaker at a campus talk. Now the students and a staff member, Jake Lynch, are facing disciplinary action that could see them suspended. NSWCCL is appalled at the use of the code of conduct to discipline staff and students in the context of legitimate protest.
Other speaks at the event include: Senator Lee Rhiannon (Australian Greens), Prof. Stuart Rees AM (Founder, Sydney Peace Foundation), Kyol Blakeney (President, USyd SRC), Michael Thomson (President, USyd NTEU), Fahad Ali (President, USyd Students for Justice in Palestine), Nick Riemer (English and Linguistics, USyd).
More information and to RSVP please go to the Facebook event - Defend USyd civil liberties - staff and student meeting
Click here to read the speech by CCL Vice President Pauline Wright on the night.
Following on from NSWCCL's successful screening of CITIZENFOUR at Parliament House in February, we're pleased to partner with award-winning cinema Avoca Picture Theatre to bring this special screening of the Oscar-winning documentary on Tuesday 24 March at 7pm, introduced by Vice President (and Avoca Beach local) Pauline Wright.Read more
On the evening of Monday 9 February NSWCCL - supported by the Victorian, Queensland and South Australian CCLs and Electronic Frontiers Australia - invited our federal members of parliament to a special, pre-release screening of the gripping documentary CITIZENFOUR in Parliament House.
It was a terrific success with MPs from the ALP, Greens and cross benchers as well as staff, journalists and members of the public coming to watch the film and discuss it over drinks afterwards. (Maybe the failure of any liberal MPS to attend was related to their ongoing drama around leadership and policy directions.)Read more
The 51st NSWCCL Annual General Meeting was held on the 15th October 2014 in the Council Chambers at Sydney Town Hall. Around thirty CCL members -including a strong cohort of firstimers -gathered to hear annual reports from the President, Secretary and Treasurer,to elect the Executive and Committee members for 2014/5 and to endorse formal CCL policies around major civil liberties issues.
They heard that the year had been a particularly challenging and depressing one with multiple legislative assaults on civil liberties and rights from both the NSW and the Federal Governments-but that, nonetheless, CCL as an organisation was traveling well.
CCL very actively opposed unwarranted and unwise changes to the recently reformed Bail Act and two rounds of bills proposing mandatory minimum sentences for drug and alcohol fueled violence. For most of the year CCL has been campaigning against a veritable avalanche of new and proposed counter-terrorism laws from the Federal Government which will continue to the end of the current Parliamentary session. CCL had also engaged with electoral processes at both the national (2013 election Senate voting processes) and state level (The City of Sydney Amendment (Elections) Act 2014.)Read more