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Lessons on Law: Samuel Griffith Society Conference on the Gold Coast

Recently, I was given the unique opportunity to attend the Samuel Griffith Society Conference 2024 along with seven other Scholars, sponsored by the Mannkal Economic Education Foundation. It was an honour to meet and hold discussions with esteemed professionals in law and politics including the Human Rights Commissioner Lorraine Finlay, Senator Jacinta Price, Queensland’s Deputy Leader of the Opposition Jarrod Bleijie, and the Honourable James Edelman from the High Court of Australia. The conference provided participants with an overview of how Australia’s legal system and constitutional law influences important topics such as the Voice, the role and protection of Human Rights Acts during COVID, and the role of liberalism and federalism in Australia’s current society. 

James with Jarrod Bleije

Of the sessions, I personally found the initial student seminar with Lorraine Finlay (Human Rights Commissioner) and Professor Nicholas Aroney (Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Queensland) to be the one of the most educational sessions of the conference. Lorraine and Nicholas provided an excellent introduction to the Constitution, Parliament, the process of law-making and explaining certain key concepts in constitutional law, which I especially found helpful as a student who is not studying law. The concepts discussed during this student seminar proved to be extremely helpful when listening to the advanced, technical sessions and speeches later in the conference. Students were also given the opportunity to ask any questions about constitutional law, which proved to be helpful.  

Personally, I found that one of the most enjoyable aspects of the conference was the discussions that the conference fostered. It provided me with the unique opportunity to network and discuss topics with professionals in law and politics while in sessions or over drinks and food. I enjoyed hearing from seasoned professors, politicians and lawyers who all had different backgrounds and experiences. One conversation that particularly stood out to me was a conversation I had with Lorraine Finlay, who was extremely open to any conversation and topic, and gave an excellent, informative response when I asked about human rights in relation to the recent Elon Musk X/Twitter battle with Australia.  

James with Ms Lorraine Finlay

I also found Senator Jacinta Price’s Saturday breakfast keynote address session extremely interesting. As a university student, I had previously only heard one perspective of the referendum from students my age. Jacinta’s speech and experience provided a completely different and unique perspective on the referendum and brought up relevant cases which I and other students in attendance were unaware of. 

A common trend I noticed was that only one side of an argument or perspective was provided on several key topics. I believe that the most fruitful discussions are those which include both sides of a debate and multiple perspectives. It would be helpful if speakers could acknowledge the key points of both sides of the debate, and potentially directly rebut the points that the opposing side makes. By doing this, it is my belief that attendees can be given a more informed perspective on important topics. 

Attendees at the Samuel Griffith Society Conference

Several of the perspectives provided at the conference on key topics starkly contrasted to many common viewpoints that I have heard at university and from other people from my generation. This conference helped me learn how to hone my ability to appreciate different perspectives, some of which I agreed with and some which challenged my previous beliefs. From this, I can confidently say that the conference boosted my personal exploration of my ideals, beliefs and opinions on important topics. 

Overall, this conference provided me with the opportunity to interact with professionals in constitutional law and shed light on different viewpoints to those common to younger people in my generation, some of which aligned with my previous beliefs while others challenged my existing beliefs. These discussions have educated me with on constitutional law and provided me with a more informed view when forming opinions on contentious topics.  

Thank you Mannkal for providing this amazing opportunity. 

Top photo – Mannkal Scholars at the Samuel Griffith Society Conference. Back row: SGS Executive Director Xavier Boffa, Hannah Waldron, Louis Comer, Jamie Low, Reuben Keyser, Kelly Briggs, Sheldon Brown, Zoe Griffiths, Colin Lillie Front row: Jonathan Huston, Senator Jacinta Price, Human Rights Commissioner Lorraine Finlay

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