Annual reports

President's Report 2018

Liberty Victoria has a long and proud history, campaigning for civil liberties and human rights for more than 80 years. Officially known as the Victorian Council for Civil Liberties Inc, its lineage extends back to the Australian Council for Civil Liberties (‘ACCL’). The ACCL was formed in Melbourne in 1936 and was determined to offer ‘a means of expression to those people in all parties who believe that social progress may be achieved only in an atmosphere of liberty.'

Throughout its history, Liberty Victoria has defended the right of individuals and organisations to free speech, freedom of the press and of assembly, and freedom from discrimination on the grounds of race, religion or political belief. It has operated in accord with the ACCL’s original platform, working not only to defend existing civil liberties and oppose their limitation, but to campaign for the ‘enlargement of these liberties.’ Liberty Victoria is now one of Australia’s leading civil liberties organisations. 

Through its Policy and Management Committees, Liberty Victoria influences debate at a State and Federal level. We are frequently asked for comment and guidance by media, politicians, law reformers and policy makers. We have staged a number of public events with a view to providing opportunities for engagement in and furtherance of issues of human rights and civil liberties. 

Our committee members are fully engaged in professional careers in their own right, and united by a shared commitment to the ideals of human rights and civil liberties. We are staunchly non-partisan.

The work of the Rights Advocacy Project (RAP) initiative has expanded our reach towards younger members and students and continues to go from strength to strength, engaging in cutting-edge innovative strategic advocacy and law reform projects. 

Liberty actively makes public statements, issues media releases, contacts and negotiates with federal and state government ministers in relation to a diverse and extensive array of matters of public interest. In 2018, we were approached to take up a regular spot on 3AW, called ‘Out of Left Field’, which we gladly did! This sees us regularly going toe to toe with Neil Mitchell on the issues of the day, and provides a unique opportunity to speak about current issues from a human rights perspective, and to an audience we would not usually reach. 

With limited funding, Liberty has been fortunate to have the voluntary support and expertise of a number of people who assist us in numerous ways. Maelor Himbury continues to assist with our daily media links, for which we and 572 subscribers (up from 443, 12 months ago) are very grateful! 

We have also been greatly assisted by our team of volunteers, and in the office, by Gillian Garner, Andrew Rawson, Kat Brown, Sophia Cosmas, Zaf Stambouldis and Karen Greening. 

It is also important to make mention of the special events we held this year as part of our efforts to communicate the importance of human rights and freedoms. 

I begin with the first major event which was last year’s AGM. We were delighted to have Brian Bourke AM - Victoria’s longest serving barrister and counsel for Ronald Ryan - as our speaker at the 2017 AGM. Brian gave a frank, funny and insightful address during what was his nal public appearance. He passed away peacefully on Good Friday 2018, leaving an extraordinary legacy. 

Magda Szubanski was the very deserving 2018 Voltaire award winner in recognition of her part in the successful “Yes” campaign for marriage equality. The recipient of the Voltaire ‘Empty Chair’ award was Behrouz Boochani sadly still imprisoned on Manus Island, and the Young Voltaire award went to Yassmin Abdel-Magied. 

The event was again held at the Sofitel Melbourne on Collins with over 300 guests. It was a wonderful night, with the fabulous Chris Keogh as Master of Ceremonies. 

This year, we ran the inaugural ‘Find Your Voice’ Human Rights conference for Year 10 and 11 students. Run in conjunction with the Year 10 Human Rights class at Ivanhoe Girls’ Grammar School, the conference reached over 300 high school students from a range of schools from across Victoria and Tasmania. They heard from speakers who talked about growing up as an indigenous activist, disability, inclusivity and intersectionality, navigating life as a trans / nonbinary / genderqueer young person, criminal justice issues affecting young people, refugee and asylum seeker issues and climate justice. It was a fantastic day and we look forward to running it again in 2019. 

Special thanks are also made to Michael Drapac, without whose generous ongoing support we would have nowhere to live; the offices of Victoria Legal Aid who generously allow us the use of their conference room for our monthly meetings; Arnold Bloch Leibler who generously hosted our 2018 annual general meeting; and to all our wonderful volunteers whose help is vital to the smooth running of Liberty. 

This year we say goodbye to a number of committee members whose contributions have been greatly appreciated. I also wish to pass on our heartfelt thanks to Gillian Garner for her service as our Executive Officer, which came to an end in 2018. We wish Gillian and our outgoing committee members all the very best and hope to see you all at events throughout the coming year. 

I am also very pleased to announce to our members and supporters that, since last year’s AGM, we have been able to achieve budget repair. This is due to the herculean efforts of our committee members (Thomas Kane, in particular), and the generosity of our members and supporters in pledging donations to the work of Liberty Victoria. 

Liberty Victoria relies on funding raised through memberships and donations and the tireless work of volunteer committee members. We receive no government funding at all. 

I am therefore very pleased to announce the launch of the “Civil Rights Defender” programme. 

This programme has been designed to give all our members and supporters the opportunity to make a more substantial commitment to the campaign for civil liberties and human rights through a regular monthly gift of $20. 

The income from this programme will mean we can expand and grow our activities, and it gives us the capacity to respond quickly and definitively to issues as they arise. 

I would encourage all our members and supporters to consider becoming a “Civil Rights Defender” by following the links on our website. 

Finally, I thank you, the members of Liberty Victoria, for your continued support. Without you, Liberty could not survive. It has been an honour serving as President of Liberty Victoria over the past 2 years. 

Warmest wishes, 

Jessie 

Download Liberty Victoria Annual Report 2018 (pdf)

President's Report 2017

What a remarkably busy year it has been in the life of Liberty Victoria.

Against a backdrop of the extraordinary events of international and domestic politics, Liberty has produced an unprecedented volume of work in response to ongoing incursions into human rights and civil liberties in Australia. Our workgroups have been very busy and have played an important role in law reform and policy development over the past 12 months on both a state and Federal level. (The work of Liberty over the past year is well documented in this report and on our ever-developing website).
 
Liberty Victoria's Rights Advocacy Project sails towards its fifth year of operation in 2018.   RAP (previously known as Young Liberty for Law Reform) will continue to engage in creative and innovative projects, supported by their new website which was launched in April 2017. RAP is a project of which Liberty Victoria is very proud, and we see real value being added by their work to the human rights landscape, both at the grassroots and at an impressively lofty level of research and intellect.

It is also important to make mention of the special events we held this year as part of our efforts to communicate the importance of human rights and freedoms.

I begin with the first major event which was last year’s AGM. We were delighted to have the Walkley Award winning journalist John Silvester as our speaker at the 2016 AGM. 

Prof Gillian Triggs was the very deserved 2017 Voltaire award winner.  The recipient of the Voltaire ‘Empty Chair’ award was Eaten Fish, and the Young Voltaire went to Georgie Stone.  Our event was bigger and better than ever, held at the Sofitel for the first time in 2017, and with a record crowd.  It was a wonderful night, MCed by Cal Wilson and featuring numerous (rather memorable!) interjections from First Dog on the Moon.

In September 2017 we were most fortunate to have Nancy MacLean give the Alan Missen Oration at the Melbourne Writers Festival. While I was not there in person (having had a baby the previous day!), I’m told that Nancy’s oration was a masterpiece. The Alan Missen Foundation remains a wonderful supporter of Liberty, and we thank them for their ongoing collaboration in this annual event.

Fearless Voices, a Liberty event held at the Thornbury Theatre was a wonderful afternoon, hosted by Johnny Topper. The crowd was thoroughly entertained by musicians Bruce Haymes, Liz Stringer, Matt Walker, Steve Hadley and Roger Bergodaz. They were joined on stage by amazing Slam Poets, Sharifa A Tartoussi, Waffle Irongirl, Sukhjit Khalsa and Tariro Mavondo. And wonderful "Shouters" Casey Bennetto, Stuart Grant, Alicia Sometimes and Paul Stewart.

Special thanks are also given to Michael Drapac (without whose generous support we would have nowhere to live), the law offices of Colin Biggers & Paisley (who generously allow us the use of their conference room for our meetings) and to all our wonderful volunteers whose help is so vital to the smooth running of Liberty.
This year we say goodbye to a number of our wonderful committee members, including Aggy Kapitaniak, Adam McBeth, Angie Wong, Leah Van Poppel, Leanne O’Donnell, Diane White, Gemma Leigh-Dodds and Jill Prior whose contributions in policy development, management of the organisation and to mentoring RAP members have been greatly appreciated. We wish them all the very best and hope to see them at events throughout the coming year.  We also welcome on board our numerous new members of the committees; I am very much looking forward to working with you in the coming year.

Finally, I thank you, the members of Liberty Victoria, for your continued support. Without you, Liberty could not survive. It has been my great pleasure working on your behalf this year.  Here’s to a cracking 2018.

Jessie Taylor

President

Liberty Victoria

Download Liberty Victoria Annual Report 2017 (pdf)

President's Report 2016

The old adage “may you live in interesting times” (whatever be its origin) comes strongly to mind as I ponder my final president’s report. 

Recent international and national events such as the outcome of the US presidential election, the rise of nationalist groups across many parts of the world, assaults upon rights and freedoms in countries like Turkey and the Philippines, and our own recent federal election, with the rise of the minor parties, all make for interesting times ahead. Events such as these cause me to reflect on a disturbing thought that the world is, at some levels at least, becoming a cold and harsh place.  

Even at a local level, in recent weeks, we have been bombarded with calls from the law and order campaigners for harsher penalties for our wayward children, some of whom are now locked up in adult prisons. “68% think authorities are losing battle against Apex gang” a Herald Sun survey recently told us. 

In these testing times, our much valued civil liberties and human rights are among the heaviest of casualties. Because of what might be considered a changing world order, the need for a strong and passionate organisation such as Liberty Victoria, committed as it is to the protection of fundamental rights and liberties, is as important now as it ever was. Speaking out against these injustices affecting our fundamental rights, the scrutiny of proposed legislation affecting those rights, the making of submissions in respect of proposals that impact upon our rights has been a core function of our work and is as important now as it ever was. 

In my two years as president of Liberty I have been privileged to work with advocates for civil liberties and human rights whose intellect, passion and commitment has been wonderfully awe-inspiring. These are the many people who make up our committees, the executive, members of Young Liberty for Law Reform, and, of course the extremely hardworking Gillian and Torunn. It has been greatly re-assuring to have these people on our side. 
The work of Liberty in 2016 is well set out in this report and on our brand new website.

It is also important to make mention of the special events we held this year as part of our efforts to communicate the importance of human rights and freedoms. 

I begin with the first major event which was last year’s AGM. We were fortunate to have Michael Brett-Young speak on that occasion about his work in reviewing the Victorian Charter and provide glimpses into what it might take to achieve a National Charter. 

Fearless Music, a Liberty event, held at the St Kilda Memo Club was a wonderful success. Hosted by Brian Nankervis with musicians Shane O’Mara, Paul Grabowsky, Rosie Westbrook, Ray Pereira, Peter Martin, Ross Wilson, Cash Savage, Stephen Cummings, Sean Kelly, Mark Seymour, Liz Stringer, Rob Snarksi, Jane Clifton and Lisa Miller all singing songs of freedom in support of Liberty.

Waleed Aly was the 2016 Voltaire award winner. Waleed is well known for speaking out on the many injustices that afflict this world and true to form was a gracious winner whose acceptance speech was indeed thought provoking. 2016 also saw the inaugural “Empty Chair” award. This year’s award went to Raif Badawi, who was sentenced to 10 years gaol and 1000 lashes for daring to criticise religious leaders in Saudi Arabia. Part of the proceeds from the Voltaire dinner were donated to the Raif Badawi Foundation for Freedom, which campaigns for the release of Raif.

In August 2016 we were most fortunate to have Philippe Sands give the Alan Missen Oration at the Melbourne Writers Festival. Philippe’s oration was one of the most powerful I have heard and judging by the comments after the event, many clearly felt the same way. I am certain that our past-president, and former Chairman of the Alan Missen Oration, Alan Goldberg QC, would have greatly enjoyed the oration. Sadly, after a long illness, Alan passed away not long before the event. He will be greatly missed by us all. He was a wonderful supporter of Liberty. 

Tonight we are also seeking from you permission to change our constitution. The executive and committees of Liberty are in favour of the proposed changes and see them as being necessary to the continued and efficient workings of Liberty Victoria. We hope that we will get your support.
Special thanks are also made to Michael Drapac, without whose generous support we would have nowhere to live, the law offices of Colin Biggers & Paisley who generously allow us the use of their conference room for our meetings and annual general meeting, and to all our wonderful volunteers whose help is vital to the smooth running of Liberty. 

This year we say goodbye to committee member Matthew Albert whose contributions over many years in policy development and to YLLR members have been greatly appreciated. 

We also see Evelyn Tadros, a long-standing committee member and former office manager, step back to focus on her commitments with the Human Rights Arts and Film Festival. We wish them both the very best and hope to see them at events throughout the coming year.

Finally, I thank you, the members of Liberty Victoria, for your continued support. Without you, Liberty could not survive. It has been my great pleasure working on your behalf.

 

 

George Georgiou SC

President

Liberty Victoria

 

Download Liberty Victoria Annual Report 2016

 

President's Report 2015

There can be little doubt that the cause of civil liberties and human rights has suffered a serious setback in recent times. There are a number of reasons that have been offered for this. Some understandable, others not. It is, however, worth pausing to reflect that once gone those rights and liberties are very difficult to claw back.

Difficult, but not impossible.

And it is with this sense of optimism that the work of Liberty Victoria must continue in 2016. First, to defend those rights and freedoms from further erosion. Second, to advocate for the restoration of those rights and freedoms lost. The work of the committees in the last 12 months has been frenetic but provides a solid base for the challenges that lie ahead.

2015 has been an extremely busy year. In January we moved to our new office in Carlton. We are extremely grateful to Michael Drapac and the Drapac Group who, for a number of years, provided us with office space and who included us in their office move earlier this year.

One of Liberty Victoria’s core functions, the making of submissions to various agencies and government bodies on proposed legislative change, has seen some 25 submissions being made in the year between July 2014 and June 2015. These include submissions to the Victorian Government’s review of the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities, the Commonwealth’s Inquiry into the Australian Citizenship (Allegiance to Australia) Bill 2015, Adoption of children by same sex couples, Constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People, to name but a few. All of the submissions are found on Liberty’s website (which is at long last being revamped) and shows the hard work and dedication of our Committee members and volunteers.

Once again, this year, Liberty Victoria worked collaboratively with our interstate colleagues on a number of submissions, and with our own Young Liberty for Law Reform (YLLR) on others. This collaborative work while itself an efficient way of best using our scarce resources, has also meant that we were exposed to different views and opinions of organisations with similar goals. We hope to continue this trend in 2016.

Not all submissions were in response to proposed legislation. For example, Liberty Victoria combined with the Australian Association for Unmanned Systems to prepare a paper “The Use of Drones in Australia; An Agenda for Reform”. The release of this paper attracted widespread attention and was followed up with a public seminar on the topic. We were also proud to assist YLLR with its Age Determination Report, the submission on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) asylum seekers.

A number of events were held this year aimed at raising public awareness of the importance of current human rights issues.  “Beyond Bars, Reflecting on the Rights of Victoria’s Prisoners” at the Wheeler Centre drew a full house. This seminar sprang from a submission prepared by Liberty Victoria and YLLR to the Victorian Ombudsman for prison reform.

In August of 2014 we were fortunate to have our Patron, Michael Kirby AC CMG give the Alan Missen Oration at the Melbourne Writers Festival. This was 28 years after Michael gave the inaugural Alan Missen Oration in 1986.

This year our guest speaker at the 2015 Alan Missen Oration was lawyer and world-renowned human rights advocate Jennifer Robinson. Jennifer gave a powerful speech on the importance of human rights, against the backdrop of the Federal government’s recently introduced Border Force Act.

Operation GAG was a night of light hearted entertainment and it was great to see so many members turn up for some great comedy. Liberty was also involved in the staging of the play “The Process” at La Mama Theatre, a look at detention from the perspective of a refugee.

The 2014 Voltaire Award went to inspirational recipient, Yu Lipski, courageous whistle-blower.

This year’s Voltaire Award was given to Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed. The Age’s Michael Bachelard was guest speaker. Not long after this event, Fahmy and Baher were released from their Egyptian prison. However, it is worth remembering that hundreds of journalists worldwide continue to languish in prison, simply for reporting the news.

Robert Stary spoke at our 2014 AGM. The event was very generously hosted by Colin Biggers and Paisley who have continued to support our organisation and host our monthly Policy Committee meetings. We thank them for having us here once again.

The scourge of terrorism has seen some significant legislative responses in the last year that have impacted on our rights and liberties. There will be more to come. The cruel and inhumane detention of asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island continues. The high and disproportionate incarceration rates amongst this country’s aboriginal population continues, as do the high numbers of prisoners in Victorian gaols. 

Liberty Victoria will continue to review and question government policies and legislation that impact upon our freedoms. No right or freedom should be affected without good and proper justification. We will continue to ask whether the measure or proposed measure is necessary; whether it is proportionate; whether there is not a better alternative, and we will advocate for change when necessary.

To achieve our aims, we rely upon your support, your ideas and your views. On behalf of Liberty Victoria, I thank you for your support in 2015 and look forward to your continued support in 2016. I also express our gratitude to all of the members of our committees, volunteers, executive staff and to those who will be leaving us this year, our former President, Justice Jane Dixon and committee members Anne O’Rourke, Michael Cohn and Michael Webster.

 

George Georgiou SC

President

Liberty Victoria

 

Download Liberty Victoria Annual Report 2015 (pdf)