By Taylah Eastwell
Originally published by Deakin Law School
Deakin Law School (DLS) had the pleasure of welcoming the Honourable Michael Kirby AC CMG to the Geelong Waterfront Campus last Friday. His Honour made a special appearance at two sold-out social justice themed events organised by the Deakin Law Student Society (DLSS) Geelong.
Sporting a purple tie in support of LGBTQIA+ ‘Where it Purple Day’, His Honour delivered a lecture and attended a luncheon where he addressed a range of existential social justice issues from nuclear power to refugee rights.
“Although I am a gay man and don’t have children, I am concerned about the future of our species. If we don’t act on these issues, the long-term survival of our species is very unsure”, he said.
He urged upcoming legal professionals to become actively involved in advocating for change, in particular by beginning the conversation about nuclear weapons and expressing our safety concerns to our politicians. His Honour believes nuclear weapons are set to become a more widespread, global issue that will render the legal system incapable of protecting individuals if appropriate action is not taken to control and minimise the access of nuclear weapons by power-hungry civilisations.
On the subject of politics, His Honour joked about his aspirations as a law student to be Prime Minister and his belief that he took the more ‘stable career option’ following last week’s events in politics. He noted that when he was considering a political career it was almost impossible for a gay man to reach the top due to archaic views but hopes his work in standing up for minorities has had a positive impact on making homosexuality more accepted in power roles.
President of the DLSS Geelong, Lauren Solomonson, said “one of the major difficulties for our society with being based regionally is that it is usually tricky to secure prominent guests at our events. Organising for such an esteemed guest to come all the way from Sydney to speak with students is a huge accomplishment.”
While students and professionals working in social justice fields enjoyed a catered luncheon, issues of family violence and sexuality discrimination were raised for comment. His Honour believes the best approach to address these issues is through education in schools from an early age on equality and gender inclusive attitudes. His Honour also believes religious conviction is outdated and requires change.
“I was left alone in the public school system to work things out for myself. On a recent visit to WA I was informed that there is only one private Catholic school offering LGBTQIA+ inclusive education. The Anglican Church gave $1 million to the ‘no’ campaign and only $5,000 to domestic violence. I don’t think we can begin to deal with the rest of these issues until change occurs” in these areas, he said.
In true ‘Great Dissenter’ fashion, His Honour said that the High Court should have more dissents as a final court.
“If there is no room for disagreement, the matter should not have made it to the High Court to begin with. As a final court there should be dissent. If there are no differing views it shows all the judges are being picked from too similar of gene pool”.
His Honour urged those about to enter the legal profession to remember that law is about balancing the rules with proper justice, and urged them to join the fight in making a more accepting and equal society for minorities groups and others suffering at the hands of the justice system.
“It excites me to see so many students engaged and passionate about the existential issues facing our society. It makes me confident that the young leaders of our country’s future are cognizant of these plights, ready and willing to discuss them, and want to ignite real change”, said Lauren.
The $540 received from ticket sales for the events was donated to the ‘Give Where You Live Foundation’, a Geelong based organisation supporting those who suffer disadvantage.
“DLSS Geelong does a lot to give back to our student community but thought this event was the perfect occasion to also give back to the greater Geelong community. We would like to thank all students who purchased a ticket for their contribution”, Lauren added.