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 anniversary 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 recently.

‘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 Santow.

‘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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