2009 Brendan Cassidy Memorial Lecture
On 17 August 2009, the La Trobe Law Students' Association hosted the annual Dr Brendan Cassidy Memorial Lecture. Dr Cassidy was a former lecturer in law and legal studies at La Trobe University who passed away May 11 2000. He was a man that who stood out by his unwavering honesty and decency and by his refusal to be intimidated by the absence of those qualities. This annual lecture series aims to carry on his strong sense of social justice and his passion for human rights.
This year, the lecture was given in the form of a panel session led by three prominent speakers in the area of human rights which included:
Professor Penelope (Penny) Andrews Chair in the La Trobe Law School and professor in Law and Director of International Studies at Valparasio Law School, Indiana;
Professor Spencer Zifcak Allan Myers Chair in Law, and Director of the Institute of Legal Studies at Australian Catholic University;
Julian McMahon a criminal barrister who formed part of the Melbourne legal team that challenged the mandatory death provisions in Singapore in the Van Nguyen Case and again in Indonesia with his involvement in representing two of the Bali 9.
The topic for the lecture was “International Humanitarian Law” which was discussed in the form of a panel by the three speakers.
Prof. Zifcak began by discussing why Australia needs a Bill of Human Rights with reference to a number of cases including Al-Kateb, Woolley, Jack Thomas, and his work in relation to co-ordinating the drafting of the New Matilda Human Rights Act.
Prof. Andrews discussed laws limitations and possibilities relating to the systemic violence against women in conflict and post conflict situations and the failure of law to redress this problem. Particular reference was made to the problem of violence against women in the Congo and Afghanistan.
Julian McMahon discussed the notion of the death penalty and the rigidity of the rule of law in some foreign jurisdictions and it’s disconnection with human rights. He touched on some of his experiences defending Australians facing death row including what the work entailed and the emotional aftermath.
Each speaker contributed valuable insights into the topic and students and staff that attended the event were pleased with the level of knowledge, experience and insight shared.
Julia Gibby, LSA Education and External Affairs Officer, thanked the speakers for presenting on the night and the staff and students that attended and ’encouraged those that did attend to continue engaging in the topic by looking out for opportunities to become practically involved in the area’.