27 September, 2019
Advocates, Agitators and Land Rights in NSW –
NSWALC CEO James Christian delivers Goldring Lecture at UOW
NSW Aboriginal Land Council CEO James Christian delivered the University of Wollongong’s 2019 Goldring Lecture this week, focusing on legal advocates working for Aboriginal rights from the 1800’s until today.
Mr Christian explored the contributions of significant non-Aboriginal legal figures including John Hubert Plunket, Jim Spigelman and Jack Goldring himself.
“John Hubert Plunket was the most notable early legal figure to pursue justice for Aboriginal people,” Mr Christian said.
“He successfully prosecuted the Myall Creek murderers for the murders of 28 Aboriginal men, women and children in the New England region in 1838.”
Mr Christian also discussed notable legal figure Jim Spigelman, well-known as the former Chief Justice of the NSW Supreme Court, but less known as one of the original Freedom Riders.
“He travelled by bus with scores of others to western and northern NSW in the early 1960’s to confront racism there, well before his very distinguished legal career,” Mr Christian said.
“And Professor Jack Goldring’s work over decades led to new programs and policies supporting equal opportunity entry into the legal profession for Indigenous students.”
Mr Christian told the audience that the work of legal advocates was part of a wider movement led by Aboriginal people themselves, including the 1946 Aboriginal Stockmen’s Strike, the 1963 Yolngu Bark Petition, the 1966 Wave Hill Walk-Off, the Aboriginal Tent Embassy outside Parliament House, Canberra in 1972, and the establishment of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council in 1977.
“I must mention Bob Bellear, the first Aboriginal District Court Judge, Professor Megan Davis, Australia’s first Aboriginal Senior Counsel, and Tony McAvoy, one of the first Aboriginal people to graduate in law,” Mr Christian said.
“Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal lawyers continue to make a real difference as advocates for my people. I think their stories are worth telling.”
Professor Jack Goldring was Judge of the District Court of NSW, Commissioner of the Australian Law Reform Commission and foundation Dean of Law at the University of Wollongong from 1990 to 1995.
The annual Goldring Lecture includes a Memorial Scholarship, awarded in 2019 to Grace Crivellaro from Wagga Wagga.