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RMIT University invites you to attend the George Higinbotham annual lecture presented by Sir Patrick Elias QC.
George Higinbotham Annual Lecture
RMIT University celebrates the legacy of politician and chief justice George Higginbotham (1826-1892) through an annual public lecture which explores topical legal issues and in particular the interaction between the law and society. The guiding principal for the series is enhancing our understanding of the law and the role of legal and political innovation in helping create a more just society.
Sir Patrick Elias QC, will present the 2015 Higinbotham Lecture on the topic, 'Has the Human Rights Act Politicised the English Judiciary?'
Speaker: Sir Patrick Elias QC
Sir Patrick Elias was called to the Bar in 1973 (Inner Temple). He became a Bencher in 1995 and served as Assistant Recorder from 1997 to 1999. He was appointed Deputy High Court Judge in January 1999 and four months later, in May 1999, he was named Judge of the High Court, Queen’s Bench Division. He was President of the Employment Appeal Tribunal from 2006 to 2008.
Sir Patrick was appointed as a Lord Justice of Appeal in 2009.
About George Higinbotham
Undoubtedly one of Victoria's most influential citizens of the colonial era, George Higinbotham (1826-1892), politician and chief justice was an independent thinker and a man of high moral principle.
Higinbotham’s views were both radical and measured: he favoured religious education that enforced the moral duty to the benefit of society; supported state aid to schools until they were financially secure; believed in settlements in the country to solve the unemployment crisis; favoured reconciliation with indigenous Australians; and supported universal suffrage. Passionately religious and with a strong commitment to democratic principles, he saw the common man as the true source of political authority. He also believed that workers should have the right to form and join trade unions in order to protect and promote their industrial interests – as evidenced by his public support (including pledging funds) for striking workers during the great Maritime Dispute of 1890.
As a judge, Higinbotham displayed the same characteristics as in all other aspects of his life - indefatigable and hard-working while attending to the minute detail of each case: “his judgements exhibited lucidity, elegance and usually economy”. Alfred Deakin described Higinbotham as “just to a hair’s-breadth and generous to a fault…as a speaker he was at once cultured, simple and effective, passionate yet self-restrained”. As chief justice, Higinbotham continued to see himself as a liberal politician who should capitalise on any legal case that furthered responsible government.
Higinbotham was the first speaker at The Town Hall meeting to establish the Working Men’s College, the precursor to the present-day RMIT University. He felt strongly that this new institution should have a liberal curriculum, including politics and non-sectarian theology and most importantly should be run by the working men of Victoria through the associated trades who had the best claim to represent them.
During his lifetime Higinbotham’s views were considered too radical to enjoy universal support but history has borne many of them out. The legacy of George Higginbotham is one of dedication to democracy which springs from concern not only with constitutional forms but also with giving an equal voice to the underprivileged.
Guests are welcome to join the official party afterwards for light refreshments in the auditorium foyer.