Bill of rights under debate at conference this week

Monday, 10 August 2009

Cultural and religious leaders, judges, academics and other experts in law and religion will gather in Canberra this week to examine the potential implications of a bill of rights on human rights and freedoms.

Held by the University of Adelaide's Research Unit for the Study of Society, Law, and Religion (RUSSLR) and the Brigham Young University Law School in the US, speakers at the conference will debate whether a proposed bill of rights for Australia would enhance or curtail cultural, religious and other freedoms and rights.

"Human rights have been brought into sharp focus with recent legislative and executive actions affecting human rights in immigration, Indigenous affairs and bikie groups," says RUSSLR Director and conference organiser Dr Paul Babie, University of Adelaide.

"The National Human Rights Consultation Committee, led by Father Frank Brennan, will report at the end of September but there is a dearth of knowledge about a potential charter or bill of rights and what it might mean for cultural and religious rights and freedoms in Australia.

"We expect some vigorous debate. Our goal is to ensure that adequate information from both sides of the debate is presented at the conference and that this is conveyed to politicians who will make the ultimate decision."

'Cultural and Religious Freedom under a bill of rights' will be held at Old Parliament House, Canberra on 13-15 August. More information can be found at

Among the speakers and panellists will be:

  • The Honourable Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, Supreme Court of Pakistan, who was removed from office under the Musharraf Presidency when he refused to comply with the order requiring a new judicial oath. He was reinstated in 2008;
  • Dr Ameer Ali, former President of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils and head of the Howard Government's Muslim Community Reference Group. He will call for a strong Charter of Rights to thwart "real threats" to religious freedom and religious tolerance;
  • The Most Reverend Mark Coleridge, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn, speaking on the freedom to hold, express and declare beliefs;
  • Sir Anthony Mason, former Chief Justice of Australia, and The Honourable Judge J Clifford Wallace, Chief Judge Emeritus of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. They will give judicial perspectives on the question of religious freedom in the courts;
  • International academics including Professor Brett Scharffs, from the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at J Reuben Law School at the Brigham Young University in the US, Professor Ian Leigh from the Human Rights Centre, Durham Law School in the UK, and Professor Paul Rishworth from Auckland University Law School.

The University of Adelaide's Research Unit for the Study of Society, Law and Religion was established last year and is the first centre in Australia to study the relationship between society, law and religion.


Contact Details

Associate Professor Paul Babie
Adelaide Law School
Director, Research Unit for the Study of Society, Law and Religion
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5521

Media Team
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 0814