Episode 11. Julian Burnside AO QC (Barrister + Human Rights & Refugee Advocate)

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Introducing Julian Burnside AO QC

Julian Burnside AO QC is an Australian barrister who specialises in commercial litigation. He is also a refugee and human rights advocate, who has provided legal council on a number of high profile cases including the Tampa affair, and cases against BHP and Gina Rinehart. He has acted pro bono on many human rights cases, in particular concerning the treatment of refugees.

He is passionately involved in the arts – collects contemporary paintings and sculptures and regularly commissions music. He is also the author of a number of books including Watching Brief, Wordwatching, and From Nothing to Zero.

Julian has won a number of awards, including the Sydney Peace Prize, was elected as a Living National Treasure, and been made an Officer of the Order of Australia for service as a human rights advocate, particularly for refugees and asylum seekers, to the arts as a patron and fundraiser, and to the law.

As you can probably imagine, I was incredibly excited to have an opportunity to interview Julian and get his thoughts on the many causes that he has championed throughout his career and life.

In this episode, Julian shares how a series of accidents brought him to practicing law and becoming an activist. He also discusses many of the myths about refugees, the dishonest claims of politicians, and our need for political leadership. Moreover, he provides insight on how to speak up, survive criticism and personal attacks, and remain hopeful whilst advocating for human rights. In addition to discussing refugees and politics, Julian shares his passion for The Arts, the important role it plays in society, and why we need to support The Arts. 

Learn about (and relevant time stamps):

  • The ‘series of accidents’ that led Julian to law and advocacy (2.44)
  • The Tampa Affair – acting pro bono for the asylum seekers (6.40)
  • Pro-bono work for refugees and asylum seekers (7.41)
  • Setting your own course (9.18)
  • Unrewarded jobs (creative artists and teachers) (13.01)
  • Encouraging the arts (15.19)
  • Supporting our artists (19.08)
  • Buying paintings from young artists (23.10)
  • Commissioning music (26.21)
  • Surviving personal attacks (28.41)
  • Responding to hate mail from the public (29.44)
  • Advice for advocates who are afraid to speak up about issues their passionate about (38.00)
  • Australian society is changing (39.07)
  • The Tampa litigation and Australia’s political history around the treatment of refugees (40.00)
  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights and refugee rights (41.59)
  • The difference between immigration and refugees (42.38)
  • Politicians, language, and dishonesty about refugees (44.30)
  • Imagine you are a Hazara from Afghanistan… (46.00)
  • Finding political leadership and creating change (51.34)
  • How to maintain hope and keep going (55.15)
  • Ivan Sollertinsky (58.00)
  • Music to console you (59.44)
  • Speaking up more (1.04.46)
  • Write to your Federal MP (1.05.15)

Links and Resources

Listen to the music Julian mentioned

Connect with Julian

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