Green Left: NSW Civil Liberties Council celebrates 60 years of defending progressive activists

On September 20th, NSW Council for Civil Liberties celebrated its 60th birthday, with over 250 people in attendence including NSW Supreme Court judges, solicitors and barristers in the community sector and private firms, journalists and activists.

The event was MCed by Meredith Burgmann, a former Labor president of the New South Wales Legislative Council, and featured keynote speaker Craig Foster, a former Socceroo captain, former SBS journalist and author of Fighting for Hakeem, who criticised Australia’s growing inequality. “We cannot open any more coal and gas projects if we want to save our planet,” Foster said. “We need a just transition and we need it now. Our governments are not listening to us, so we need mass civil disobedience to stop them. Who will take part in this?”

The documentary Sixty Years Strong, remembering the councils history and honouring the activists who founded the Council, was also launched.

Eden Gillespie won the 2023 Excellence in Civil Liberties Journalism Awards Young Journalist section. Gillespie broke the news that Brisbane Watchhouse officers were consistently racist and sexist which forced the Queensland government to investigate. Gillespie paid tribute to the bravery of officer Steven Marshall and said whistleblowers, including journalists, need protection and have the right to protect their sources.

Journalists Christopher Knaus and Nino Bucci won the 2023 Open Category award. Their story detailed officials from the Department of Home Affairs demanding independent researchers alter a report critical of counterterrorism powers. The powers allow individuals to be imprisoned for a crime they had not committed. Knaus and Bucci broke this story with a series of articles on the government's attempts to cover this report up.

Lydia Shelly, CCL Vice-President, gave a moving tribute to David Bernie, a life-long CCL activist and barrister who recently passed away.

Josh Pallas, current CCL president, said the short documentaries “record our proud history of defending protesters and civil liberties” including interviews by himself, Wendy Bacon, Stephen Blanks and Cameron Murphy “explain the rich history of CCL lawyers taking part in and defending protesters in the LGBTIQ movements, in the environment, feminist, anti-racist and green ban campaigns”.


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