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2011 Mitchell Oration - Human Rights: Sword, Shield or Just Symbolism?

Larissa Behrendt with David Marr
Date and time: 
8 October, 2011 - 16:00

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Larissa Behrendt, introduced by David Marr, presented the 2011 Equal Opportunity Commission Mitchell Oration, part of the 2011 Adelaide Festival of Ideas.


Consideration needs to be given to the role of symbolism in a human rights framework, with relevance to the interest in the recognition of Indigenous people in the Constitution. As clear evidence emerges of what works and what doesn’t in improving socio-economic conditions in Indigenous communities, we also need to ask what part human rights benchmarks and human rights legislation can play in achieving real improvements to the lives of Indigenous people?

Professor of Law and Director of Research at the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning at SUT , Professor Larissa Behrendt is a Barrister with a Bachelor of Laws and Jurisprudence from the University of New South Wales; first Aboriginal Australian to graduate from Harvard Law School gaining her Master of Laws and Senior Doctorate of Jurisprudence; Member of the Academy of Social Sciences of Australia,Australian Academy of Law; Chair of the College of Experts of the Australian Research Council; on the Cooperative Research Centres Committee; Commissioner at the Land and Environment Court and Alternate Chair of the Serious Offenders Review Board.

Journalist, author, and progressive political and social commentator, David Marr writes on politics, law and the arts for the Sydney Morning Herald. He has presented Media Watch and Arts Today for the ABC, edited The National Times and appears occasionally on Q&A and The Insiders. His books include ‘A Life of Patrick White’, ‘Dark Victory’, written with his colleague Marian Wilkinson and last year’s Quarterly Essay ‘Power Trip’, ‘The Political Journey of Kevin Rudd’. His areas of expertise include the Law, Australian Politics, Censorship, the Media and the Arts.

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