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Democratic Rights Night

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University of Sydney

Eastern Avenue Camperdown

Law Foyer, Level 2 of the Law School Building

Camperdown, NSW 2006

Australia

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As a democratic state Australia may be thought to subscribe to and protect certain core ideas for its citizens. Such ideas include freedom of political communication, freedom of election, freedom of religious belief, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. Freedom of assembly is protected under International Human Rights Law and encompasses the right of citizens to engage in peaceful protests. In the last few years, however, there has been a worrying national trend. State legislatures have enacted laws which prevent the exercise of such rights by heavily regulating peaceful protests. Anti-protest laws across Australia give police broad powers to detain protestors and shut down protests in certain circumstances. There has also been an increase in the penalties faced by peaceful protestors.

The Democratic Rights Night will explore the extent to which Australians are able to exercise democratic rights, and particularly focus on rights to protest. The Democratic Rights Night will cover:

  1. Anti-protest laws;
  2. The rights of environmental activists to participate in environmental decisions by engaging in protests; and
  3. The corporate influence on laws that diminish protest rights

Our expert panellists are:

Emily Howie, director of legal advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre. Emily runs the HRLC’s Sydney office and leads its work on democratic freedoms, including freedom of assembly and association and free speech. In 2017 the HRLC intervened in Bob Brown’s High Court challenge to Tasmania’s anti-protest laws.

Sue Higgins, CEO of the Environmental Defender’s Office NSW. The EDO specialises in public interest environmental law. As a litigator, Sue has carried many public interest environmental cases through many different courts in Australia, has acted for hundreds of community groups and individuals, has delivered legal workshops to communities all over NSW and beyond, and has represented EDO NSW and its clients on many advisory groups and forums. Sue has also represented hundreds of environmental protestors in criminal courts throughout NSW. Sue is passionate about public interest environmental law and providing access to environmental justice and

David Ritter, CEO of Greenpeace Australia Pacific. David has been with Greenpeace for nine years, campaigning to secure an earth capable of nurturing life in all its amazing diversity. Prior to joining Greenpeace, he worked as a lawyer and academic. David is a widely published commentator on politics, law, history and current affairs. He is an honorary fellow of the Faculty of Law at the University of Western Australia, and a research affiliate of the Sydney Environment Institute and an Adjunct Professor in the Sydney Democracy Network, both at Sydney University.

The panel will be moderated by Christine Winter, a PhD student from the University of Sydney, attached to the Sydney Environment Institute. Christine is blending her Anglo-Celtic-Māori cultural heritage, background in geomorphology and applied ethics and justice, in a PhD directed at exploring how we might approach decolonizing theories of Intergenerational Environmental Justice.




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University of Sydney

Eastern Avenue Camperdown

Law Foyer, Level 2 of the Law School Building

Camperdown, NSW 2006

Australia

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