Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Amnesty International
Commemorative Address to be delivered by Julian Burnside QC - national human rights advocate
Wednesday 16 November 2011
Allan Scott Auditorium, UniSA City West campus
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"Lest we forget is one of the most resonant phrases in our national mythology. We say it, or think it, on 11th November each year and on Anzac day. But forgetting lies at the heart of this country. We forget that boat people who come here to ask for protection are not illegal in any sense; we forget that there is no queue; we forget that the number of boat people who get here is very small by any measure. Worst of all: we forget that boat people are human beings.
Amnesty serves as our conscience. It reminds us, lest we forget."
Julian Burnside is a barrister based in Melbourne. He specialises in commercial litigation. He joined the Bar in 1976 and took silk in 1989. He acted for the Ok Tedi natives against BHP, for Alan Bond in fraud trials, for Rose Porteous in numerous actions against Gina Rinehart, and for the Maritime Union of Australia in the 1998 waterfront dispute against Patrick Stevedores. He was Senior Counsel assisting the Australian Broadcasting Authority in the "Cash for Comment" inquiry and was senior counsel for Liberty Victoria in the Tampa litigation.
He is a former President of Liberty Victoria, and has acted pro bono in many human rights cases, in particular concerning the treatment of refugees.
He is passionately involved in the arts. He collects contemporary paintings and sculptures and regularly commissions music. He is Chair of Fortyfive Downstairs, a not for profit arts and performance venue in Flinders Lane, Melbourne.
He is the author of a book of essays on language and etymology, Wordwatching (Scribe, 2004) and Watching Brief, (Scribe, 2007) a collection of his essays and speeches about the justice system and human rights. He compiled a book of letters written by asylum seekers held in Australia's detention camps. The book, From Nothing to Zero was published in 2003 by Lonely Planet. He also wrote Matilda and the Dragon a children's book published by Allen & Unwin in 1991.
In 2004 he was elected as a Living National Treasure. In 2009 he was made an Officer of the Order of Australia. He is married to artist Kate Durham.
Amnesty International is a global movement of more than 1 million people in over 150 countries and territories who campaign to end grave abuses of human rights. Our vision is for every person to enjoy all the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards.
We are independent of any government, political ideology, economic interest or religion - funded mainly by our membership and public donations.
For more information visit our website at: www.amnesty.org.au
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