How human rights can be defended and extended

Hands behind barb wire fence

Many people would agree that Gillian Triggs and Julian Burnside are the two most significant defenders of human rights in contemporary Australia. La Trobe University’s Ideas & Society Program is immensely pleased and proud to be able to announce that they have agreed to come together, as part of our “Better Australia?” series, in what promises to be a fascinating conversation of national importance.

Gillian Triggs is a distinguished international lawyer who has held professorships in the Law Schools of both the University of Sydney and the University of Melbourne. Between 2012 and 2017 she was President of Australia’s Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission, where she served with integrity, grace and courage in the face of unrelenting political pressure.

Julian Burnside AO QC, a highly successful commercial lawyer, is best known as Australia’s most eloquent, principled and unwavering human rights advocate. He has worked pro bono on countless asylum seeker cases but was also the lead barrister in the Trevorrow case, the first successful stolen generations litigation.

Gillian Triggs and Julian Burnside will discuss the many serious threats to human rights we presently face—over the treatment of asylum seekers, the rise of anti-Muslim extremism, the challenge to the legal protections against expressions of racial hatred, the passage of far-reaching anti-terror laws, and the many areas where discrimination against women and indigenous Australians still exist. Even more importantly, they will consider how the regime of human rights in Australia can best be defended and extended.

Due to high demand, this event is now sold out. Guests can still enjoy the event via our live stream, which will be available on Thursday 3 May at 6.30pm on this page.


Thursday May 3 2018
6.15 pm Event registration for a 6.30 pm start
8.00 pm Event conclusion


Experimedia, State Library of Victoria
328 Swanston Street,
Melbourne VIC 3000


University Events

Presented by

The Ideas & Society Program


$30 General / $20 Alumni & Staff/ $15 Students


Gillian Triggs

Portrait of Gillian TriggsGillian Triggs is an Emeritus Professor and former President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, and the new Chair of Justice Connect, a non-profit dedicated to connecting people locked out of the justice system with free legal help. She is also Vice Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of Melbourne and Vice President of the Asian Development Bank Tribunal.

Gillian was Dean of the Faculty of Law and Challis Professor of International Law at the University of Sydney from 2007-12 and Director of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law from 2005-07. She is a former barrister and a Governor of the College of Law. She graduated in Law from the University of Melbourne in 1968 and gained a PhD in 1982.

Gillian has combined an academic career with international commercial legal practice and has advised the Australian and other governments and international organisations on international legal and trade disputes.

After her tenure with the HRC ended, Gillian joined Justice Connect as Chair to pursue her commitment to ensuring that all people have a fair chance to access justice, including people experiencing homelessness, elder abuse, family violence and financial exploitation.

Post-HRC, Gillian is focused on helping lawyers ‘get out of the office’ and meet people who need legal help where they live. She is also the author of many books and papers on international law, including International Law, Contemporary Principles and Practices.

Julian Burnside AO QC

Portrait of Julian BurnsideJulian Burnside AO QC is a barrister based in Melbourne. He specialises in commercial litigation. He joined the Bar in 1976 and took silk in 1989.

He is a former President of Liberty Victoria, and has acted pro bono in many human rights cases, in particular concerning the treatment of refugees.

Julian Burnside is the author of a book of essays on language and etymology, including Wordwatching and Watching Brief.

His latest book is Watching Out: Reflections on Justice and Injustice. In 2004 he was elected as a Living National Treasure; in 2009 he was made an Officer of the Order of Australia; and in 2014 he was awarded the Sydney Peace Prize.