Justice Gageler on PIAC’s ‘extraordinary diaspora’

The High Court’s Hon Justice Stephen Gageler
and the NSW Attorney General, the Hon Greg Smith, addressed guests at PIAC’s 30th
dinner on 28 February 2013. 

Noting it was impossible to name every contributor to PIAC over the past three decades, Justice Gageler nevertheless
acknowledged ‘the extraordinary extent of the PIAC diaspora’.

‘I am not talking here about the people like
John Basten and Jeremy Kirk (to name just two of those present) who were always
happy to do work that was farmed out to them.

‘I am not talking about the friends of PIAC, of
which there are many.

‘I am talking about the hundreds of people who
worked in, or for or with PIAC generally for a period of months or years,
generally in their youth: people who in many cases have gone on to have very
significant careers in law, in public or community service or in academia or in
some cases all three,’ Justice Gageler said.

‘John Basten reminded me that those old enough
to remember the Easybeats may have watched the sad story of Stevie Wright, the
group’s lead singer, on Australian Story

‘Apart from his descent into the netherworld of drug and alcohol
addition, Stevie also suffered deep sleep therapy for which Chelmsford Hospital
became notorious. PIAC was instrumental in the long running litigious saga that
led to the exposure of the horrific regime at Chelmsford.

‘Liza Carver, who could not be here tonight, reminded
me of the HomeFund litigation in the Federal Court, part of which ended up in
the High Court in which thousands of former housing commission tenants facing
mortgage interest rates of 17 per cent. Others reminded me of the copper seven
IUD litigation.

‘This was all pioneering stuff. The issues were
difficult. The stakes were high. The public interest was unambiguous.

‘There is much that has changed in the legal
landscape since PIAC first came onto the scene.

‘Some of the space once occupied by public
interest organisations is now occupied by litigation funders. But issues of
access to justice remain. There is a role for PIAC that will remain while
disadvantaged groups remain.’

Herbert Smith Freehills hosted the PIAC
anniversary dinner and Transurban was an event sponsor.

Transurban is preparing to launch the
Strengthening Communities partnership, an initiative that will draw in a wide
group of corporate and community organisations (including Herbert Smith
Freehills and PIAC), with a focus on addressing homelessness in Woolloomooloo

‘It was wonderful to
see so many good friends of PIAC together, and to share stories about what we
have achieved over the past 30 years,’ said PIAC chief executive, Edward

‘We are very grateful to the wide range of individuals, law firms and others who
contribute to PIAC’s ongoing success.’ 

Visit Celebrating 30 years of public interest advocacy

Visit People power: commitment, energy and dedication

Photo: Justice Stephen Gageler at PIAC’s 30th anniversary dinner. Photo by Chris Gleisner. 

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