Human Rights 2018

The Annual Castan Centre for Human Rights Law Conference

Photo of people at conference

Conference Speaker Lineup

Date: Friday 20 July 2018
Time: 9.00am - 5.00pm
Venue: The Edge, Federation Square, Corner Swanston and Flinders Street, Melbourne


Kristen Hilton
Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner

Topic: Challenging conduct and culture: why human rights matters

Kristen Hilton grew up as one of five girls in country Victoria and moved to Melbourne to complete a Law/Arts degree at Melbourne University. Kristen worked in corporate law as an industrial relations lawyer before pursuing a career in social justice and human rights. Kristen was the CEO of the Public Interest Law Clearing House (now Justice Connect) before joining the executive team at Victoria Legal Aid where she held roles as the Executive Director of Civil Law and Legal Practice.

Kristen is a Churchill Fellow and in 2007 spent time in Geneva, South Africa and the USA investigating the right to adequate housing. Kristen was named the LIV Community Lawyer of the Year in 2006 and was the recipient of the inaugural NAB Access to Justice Award.

In 2016, Kristen was appointed as Victoria’s Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner. As Commissioner, Kristen’s role is to promote and protect human rights and equality across the state and lead the Commission’s work in creating a rights respecting culture within organisations, governments and communities. Kristen is the Chair of the expert panel in both the Fire Services review and Victoria Police review and chairs the recently established Male Champions of Change group for Fire and Emergency Services.

Kristen and her partner Jack are the parents of three lively children.


Professor Frank Brennan
Australian Catholic University

Topic: Religion and human rights

You can read his conference paper here and his presentation here.

Frank Brennan is a Jesuit priest and CEO of Catholic Social Services Australia. He is superior of the Jesuit community at Xavier House in Canberra. He is professor at the P M Glynn Institute at the Australian Catholic University and research professor at the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture. He chaired the National Human Rights Consultation for the Rudd Government and more recently has been a member of the Turnbull Government’s expert panel conducting the Religious Freedom Review.

His latest books are No Small Change: The Road to Recognition for Indigenous Australia, Amplifying That Still, Small Voice, The People’s Quest for Leadership in Church and State and The 2015 Gasson Lectures: Maintaining a Convinced and Pondered Trust.

An Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for services to Aboriginal Australians, particularly as an advocate in the areas of law, social justice and reconciliation, he was the recipient of the Migration Institute of Australia’s 2013 Distinguished Service to Immigration Award and of the 2015 Eureka Democracy Award in recognition of his endeavours which have contributed to strengthening democratic traditions in Australia.

When launching Frank’s book Acting on Conscience on the place of religion in Australian politics and law, Kevin Rudd described Frank as ‘an ethical burr in the nation’s saddle’. Earlier during the 1998 Wik debate, Paul Keating labelled him ‘the meddling priest’. The National Trust has classified him as a Living National Treasure.

Frank serves on the board of the National Apology Foundation and on the Advisory Council of the Global Foundation. His research interests include conscience and faith, human rights and the rule of law, and the rights of Indigenous peoples and asylum seekers.


Professor Megan Davis
Member, UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Topic: The Uluru Statement from the heart and the future of reconciliation

Professor Megan Davis is a Pro Vice Chancellor and Professor of Law at UNSW.  Megan was elected in 2017 by the United Nations Human Rights Council to the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. She formerly served on the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York (2011-2016). Megan is a constitutional lawyer who served on the Prime Minister's Expert Panel on the Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the Constitution in 2011 and the Referendum Council from 2015-2017. Megan is also a Commissioner on the Australian Rugby League NRL Commission.

Rohingya activist

Topic: The Destruction of the Rohingya

You can read his conference paper here.

Habiburahman, widely known as Habib, spent 10 years in Malaysia, including in various Malaysian detention centres, and worked with Burmese political exile groups there, including the Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization.

Habib arrived in Australia by sea in 2009 and spent 32 months in immigration detention before being granted asylum and released into the community. He is the Founder and Spokesperson for the Australian Burmese Rohingya Organization ( He is also a Support Service Coordinator at RISE Refugees and Secretary of the international Rohingya organization Arakan Rohingya National Assembly, based in the UK. He is co-author (with  French author Sophie Ansel) of First They Erased Our Name (D’abord ils ont effacé notre nom. Un Rohingya témoigne). Habib has Diplomas in community services, electrical power and mechanical hardware installation. He works a number of casual jobs as an interpreter, mechanical installer and manual labourer.

Adjunct Professor George Newhouse
Macquarie University and the Principal Solicitor of the National Justice Project

Topic: The Commonwealth’s duty to provide adequate medical care to asylum seekers in PNG and Nauru

You can view his conference powerpoint slides here.

George Newhouse is an Australian human rights lawyer, adjunct Professor of Law at Macquarie University and an advocate for law reform and social justice. George is the principal solicitor and a director of the National Justice Project. He is well known for his work with vulnerable individuals, in particular the mentally ill, Aboriginal Australians, Aboriginal youth, refugees, detainees and prisoners.

Most notably, George represented Vivian Solon, who was illegally deported from Australia and Cornelia Rau who was wrongfully detained in an Australian detention centre for 10 months. He has acted in inquests for over 60 families. He also acted for 157 Sri Lankan asylum seekers intercepted on the High Seas by Australian Customs in the High Court case of CPCF v Minister for Immigration and Border Protection.

As an advocate for Aboriginal rights, George has acted for the Mutitjulu and Muckaty Aboriginal Communities against the Commonwealth Government and established a programme to train Aboriginal communities on the safe and effective videoing of police interactions.

In the recent case of Plaintiff s99 of 2016 v Minister for Immigration and Border Protection George was able to extend the Minister for Immigration’s duty of care to a refugee who had been raped on Nauru and, more recently he was able to obtain orders against the Minister for Immigration to medically evacuate a number of suicidal children and women in need of urgent treatment, from Nauru to Australia.


Ivy Josiah
Secretary-General, Society for the Promotion of Human Rights, Malaysia
A Maurice Blackburn Visiting Activist

Topic: You Can't Beat A Woman - Women's Human Rights in Malaysia

Ivy N Josiah, the former Executive Director of Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) is a women’s rights activist known for her work at the national, regional and international levels. Ivy has developed, promoted and implemented Women’s Aid WAO’s shelter services, coordinated its public education programmes and advocacy work on the issue of violence against women and rights of women in the family.

Two national appointments stand out when in February 2004, she was appointed into the Royal Commission to Enhance the Operation and Management of the Royal Malaysia Police. Secondly, in 2009 she was appointed by the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development as a member of the National Taskforce to investigate sexual abuse allegations of indigenous women (Penan Community) in Sarawak, East Malaysia.  Both the investigative reports were described as standard setting.

Ivy is presently:

  • Member of the Advisory Council on Women, Ministry of Women, Family & Community Development.
  • Secretary General, Society for the Promotion of Human Rights.
  • EXCO member of the National Human Rights Society of Malaysia (HAKAM).

Ivy is active in the arts and public education initiatives being a producer for Five Arts Centre and for KINI TV You Tube show called NADI (PULSE).

Tara Moss
Author and human rights advocate

Panel with Ivy Josiah - A new era or a false dawn? Women’s rights after #metoo

Tara Moss is an author, journalist, TV documentary maker and presenter, speaker, content creator, human rights advocate, UNICEF Ambassador, and anti-cyberbullying campaigner. She was the host, co-executive producer and co-writer of Cyberhate with Tara Moss (ABC and iview) examining the phenomenon of online abuse. Her latest non-fiction book Speaking Out: A 21st Century Handbook for Women and Girls was released as a follow up to her first non-fiction work, The Fictional Woman and she is currently writing her twelfth book.

Tara’s love of vintage, sewing, craft and body positivity inspired her vintage-focused blog and YouTube series Sewing Vintage with Tara Moss which she hosts and produces.

Visit her at

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Pinterest

Josh Bornstein
Company Director, Principal Lawyer, National Head of Employment Law,
Maurice Blackburn Lawyers

Topic: Requiem for the right to strike

You can read his conference paper here.

Josh Bornstein is a Director of Maurice Blackburn and National Leader of both its Social Justice Group and its Employment and Industrial Relations Group. He also chairs the firm’s People and Culture Committee.

Josh has 20 years’ experience as an employment and industrial relations lawyer, advising executive, managerial and professional clients throughout Australia. In addition, he has represented many of Australia’s trade unions and the ACTU. He is currently also acting for Get Up and

Josh is deputy chair of the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board and a board member of the progressive think tank, the Australia Institute.

He is a prolific writer of opinion columns and publisher of his own tweets @JoshBBornstein


David Ritter
CEO, Greenpeace Australia Pacific

Topic: Choking our human rights: Coal, Adani and the politics of law

David Ritter is the Chief Executive Officer of Greenpeace Australia Pacific. He is also an Adjunct Professor in the Sydney Democracy Network at Sydney University, a research affiliate of the Sydney Environment Institute and an honorary fellow of the Law Faculty at UWA.  His most recent book is The Coal Truth: The Fight to Stop Adani, Defeat the Big Polluters and Reclaim our Democracy.  He has two daughters and lives in Sydney.


If you have any queries about the conference please tel 03 9905 3327 or email


For a copy of our sponsorship brochure, contact the Castan Centre (see above) or to discuss sponsorship options contact Marius Smith, Centre Manager on 03 9905 3386 or email

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