Alternative Law Journal
All of the articles in this edition of the Alternative Law Journal are about 'doing justice'. Each article considers the role of lawyers in advocating, campaigning, educating or Irrigating for justice, whether environmental, social, economic or political. Many of the articles also consider or reflect the way in which this role can and should be fulfilled.
In 'Forest Reform in Victoria', Andrew Walker, Law and Policy Committee Convenor of Lawyers for Forests Inc, outlines a comprehensive legislative and regulatory reform agenda to ensure the ecologically sustainable management of forests in Victoria. Lawyers for Forests is a non-politically aligned association of legal professionals working to promote the preservation and responsible management of Victoria's forests. Their activities range from defending forest protesters and advocating for law reform to promoting 'greener' workplaces.
The President of Lawyers for Forests, Vanessa Bleyer, in 'Defending Victoria's Forests', and Stephanie Long, the Climate Campaigner for Friends of the Earth, in her piece on climate change litigation, discuss the role of creative litigation, zealous advocacy and direct action in achieving environmental equity and accountability. Vanessa, Stephanie and Igor O'Neill, whose piece discusses direct action against Australian companies mining in protected forest areas in Indonesia, are all involved in movements which seek to achieve environmental justice in an atmosphere of governmental and corporate non-compliance and inaction.
With a federal election set to be held later this year, Jude McCulloch's article, 'National (ln)Security in Australia', which considers the role and discourse of 'fear' in federal politics, is particularly timely. Her article speaks to the importance of 'doing justice' by critiquing and deconstructing the dominant dialogue, including through legal, social and economic analysis, and employing the language of human rights, equality and aspirational alternatives.
In his recent book, The Lowest Rung: Voices of Australian Poverty, historian and social commentator Mark Peel writes that 'you can't do justice if you don't listen to the people who know injustice'. His observation is based on interviews with over 300 people living in housing estates in what are regarded as the 'impoverished' suburbs of Broadmeadows, Mt Druitt and lnala. The importance of listening to and respecting people who know injustice, as part of any movement to achieve justice, is a theme that resonates through the articles in this edition by Peter Seidel, Tamara Walsh and Miranda Stewart.
For over ten years, Peter Seidel has acted for the Yorta Yorta Nation in their struggle for native title justice. Peter's commitment to 'doing justice' for the Yorta Yorta community, which started with a native title application in 1994 and continued through Federal Court, Full Federal Court and High Court hearings between 1995 and 2002, has now extended to assisting the community with a complaint to the United Nations Human· Rights Committee. It is commitment which is borne from a lawyer-client relationship characterised by dignity, empathy, engagement and mutual respect. Peter's journey with the Yorta Yorta community is reported in this edition in 'Native Title: The Struggle for justice for the Yorta Yorta Nation'.
People experiencing homelessness constitute one of the most disadvantaged, marginalised and disenfranchised groups in society. Tamara Walsh's article, 'Who is the "Public" in "Public Space"?', discusses a coordinated and collaborative campaign to promote the equitable and fair regulation of public space. The campaign has been informed by extensive consultations with people experiencing homelessness and with homelessness service providers. Tamara's article gives powerful voice to their experiences, concerns and proposals for reform.
Miranda Stewart's article, 'It's a Queer Thing', reflects on the experience of gay and lesbian law reform in Victoria, particularly the work of the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (VGLRL), in the relationship campaign of 2000--2001. Miranda's article extrapolates from the experience of the campaign to suggest strategies for achieving equality and social justice. Central to these strategies is a close, cooperative, collaborative and inclusive engagement with constituencies. The VGLRL has achieved significant success in lobbying for a constituency while still respecting diversity, by speaking with rather than for the gay, lesbian, transgender and queer communities through a strong coalitionist movement.
Mark Peel's book, referred to above, concludes that
Doing justice depends upon listening; it begins not from telling people what they should do, but from listening to them and then asking, 'What do you think should be done?' ... lmpoverished people don't need to be taught and they don't need to be told. They need to be trusted, respected and heard. They want to begin the conversat1on about poverty and injustice rather than always coming at its end.
We hope that this edition calls attention to the capacity and duty of lawyers to advocate, campaign, educate and litigate for environmental, social, economic and political justice. We devote this edition to the many lawyers who are discharging this duty by listening to, representing and treating their clients and constituents with dignity, empathy, commitment and respect.
PHILIP LYNCH is the Coordinator of the PILCH Homeless Persons' Legal Clinic.
GLENN OSBOLDSTONE is a Melbourne lawyer.