The sixth annual Higinbotham Lecture focused on Australia’s need for a charter of human rights and was also a networking opportunity for law students.
Celebrating the legacy of Victorian politician and Chief Justice George Higinbotham 1826-1892, RMIT’s annual Higinbotham Lecture explores topical legal issues – particularly the interaction between the law and society.
For law students, it was a chance to network with representatives from prominent law firms and agencies including Maurice Byers Chambers, Department of Justice, Victorian Legal Aid and Amnesty International.
Professor Anthony Forsyth from the Graduate School of Business and Law said hosting the lecture on campus was a great opportunity for students and staff to engage with the industry.
“The Higinbotham Lecture attracts a strong legal crowd and gives students an opportunity to have great conversations with people from various firms and agencies,” he said.
“We do this while highlighting some of society’s most important topics.
“The outcome is fostering a worldly discussion that has profound impact.”
This year, Human Rights Law Centre Executive Director Hugh de Kretser delivered the lecture on the topic of Australia’s need for national charter of human rights.
Unlike some other Western democracies such as Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, Australia does not have a national charter of rights, meaning the right to things such as privacy, free speech and association, and unfair incarceration are only partially protected.
de Kretser, a lawyer with an extensive background in human rights law, highlighted the need for a national charter, saying it would help protect human rights in Australia.
His comments follow a 2017 Centre for Innovative Justice research report by five Juris Doctor students, which found the key impacts of a charter would be increased transparency, debate and consideration.
During his speech, de Kretser drew on the some of the research.
“An Australian charter of rights would fill the holes in our patchwork protection of rights in this country – creating a better rights safety net for all us,” he said.
“It would help to ensure that our government complies with the rules it has promised to comply with under international law.”
Although Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory have charters, they only apply to those jurisdictions.
Story: Aeden Ratcliffe