25 years fighting for the legal and democratic rights of the poor and disadvantaged

Upholding and enhancing the democratic rights of the poor and disadvantaged will be a major theme of a two-day conference in Sydney being organised by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre.

The conference is entitled ‘Working for a fair, just and democratic society in the 21st century’
and coincides with Anti-Poverty Week 2007, which is a United Nations’ initiative promoting public awareness of the extent of poverty in developed and developing nations.

PIAC’s Chief Executive Officer Robin Banks said, “The areas of public interest which PIAC focuses on like the impact on consumers of rising water and energy costs, Indigenous justice, human rights, health and access to justice issues are more likely to adversely effect disadvantaged groups in society.”

“PIAC’s aim is to give these individuals and groups a voice in the democratic and legal process in order to address their needs and to ensure they have equal access to justice and the full benefit of living in a developed nation. PIAC is also actively involved in public education so people can more effectively engage with government, policy makers and the legal system to bring about change” Ms Banks said.

The conference also celebrates the 25th anniversary of Australia’s first ever public interest and legal centre.

Some of PIAC’s major successes in that time have been successful class actions on behalf of victims of HomeFund and repayment of money owed in some Stolen Wages’ cases. More recently PIAC has commenced litigation proceedings against major airlines for discriminating against people with disabilities.

PIAC is also co-ordinating the campaign to determine whether NSW should have a Charter of Rights and has actively opposed the privatisation of public utilities and the impact this may have on water and energy pricing.

The opening address at the Conference will be given by Professor Larissa Behrendt, Director, Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning, University of Technology Sydney who will talk about the importance of civil society participation in Australian democracy.

A panel discussion will follow which will explore the public interest issues that Australia is likely to face in 2020. This will be lead by ABC Radio National’s Breakfast presenter Fran Kelly and feature futurist, Professor Richard A Slaughter who is director of Foresight International.

Other sessions over the two days will focus on what has worked in public interest campaigns involving Indigenous, environmental, human rights and consumer issues and how that knowledge can be applied to future campaigns. The use of new technologies in the public interest will also be explored.

Other speakers include Jeff Angel (Total Environment Centre), the Hon Elizabeth Evatt AC (former Chief Judge, Family Court of Australia), Graeme Innes AM (Human Rights Commissioner and Commissioner responsible for Disability Discrimination), Brett Solomon (GetUp!), Michael Raper (Director, Welfare Rights Centre NSW), Gary Moore (Manager, Community Services, Marrickville Council) and Andrew Johnson (ACOSS).

PIAC 25th Anniversary Conference

‘Working for a fair, just and democratic society in the 21st century’

Date: 18 & 19 October 2007, 9:00 to 5:00pm

Venue: Wesley Conference Centre, Pitt Street Sydney

For program details go to www.piacconference.com

To organise interviews or other media enquiries contact:

MEDIA CONTACT: Dominic O’Grady, Media and Communications Officer,

Public Interest Advocacy Centre. Ph: 02 8898 6532 or 0400 110 169

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