The McWhirter Conference, Melbourne 2019
'Who should set the limits of free speech?
The inaugural Australian 2019 McWhirter Conference TOOk place at the University of Melbourne on Thursday 11th and Friday 12th July
Inspiring young people to debate topical issues and to think about their future role in society.
Building on the success of the the conferences at Oxford and Cambridge, the McWhirter foundation has expanded its network to include students in Australia.
Hosted by the University of Melbourne, the conference provides a unique, and sometimes life-changing, educational opportunity for bright years 11 and 12 students from both state and independent schools.
The students form small syndicate groups to discuss what they’ve heard from each of the four guest speakers. These syndicate sessions, and the conference, culminate in a ‘question time’ plenary session with the students forming both the audience and the panel.
The McWhirter Foundation and its supporters host the conference at the University of Melbourne with no cost to the students. The conference encourages students to think about their own role in society and to think about how they might get involved in shaping Australia’s future.
Since 1975, more than 3,500 students have attended a McWhirter Conference.
Speakers at the 2019 conference
Professor Adrienne Stone
Professor Adrienne Stone is Redmond Barry Distinguished Professor of Law at Melbourne Law School where she directs the Centre for Comparative Constitutional Studies at the University of Melbourne, a large group of researchers on comparative constitutional law. The Centre is also extensively engaged with government and non-governmental organisations on constitutional questions including freedom of speech, constitutional recognition of Indigenous Peoples, and fundamental rights. Professor Stone is President of the International Association of Constitutional Law and has been a visiting professor at Universities in France, Canada and the United States. She delivers papers and lectures on her research throughout the world.
Roj is a Senior Campaigner at GetUp specialising in racial and economic justice. In this role she has also led Colour Code, a national independent movement of First Nations and migrant communities for racial justice. She has worked with people across the country to build up their capacity to advocate for a non-discriminatory migration system, improve diverse representation across all public institutions, combat the rise of extremist white supremacist groups and stamp out structural racism and discrimination. She is currently leading GetUp’s campaigning on economic justice including raising Newstart and lifting the migrant worker underclass. Roj has an interdisciplinary background in LGBTI+, refugee and racial justice, and over 5 years experience in public policy, media and design strategy. Roj was the previous editor of Acclaim Magazine and Neue Luxury and a regular contributor on radio and in various publications.
Dr Shireen Morris
Shireen is a McKenzie Postdoctoral Fellow at Melbourne Law School and a senior policy adviser to Cape York Institute where she worked for seven years on Indigenous constitutional recognition. Shireen’s PhD thesis on a First Nations constitutional voice will be published by Hart next year. Other books include Radical Heart (2018, MUP), A Rightful Place: A Roadmap to Recognition (2017, Black Inc) and The Forgotten People (2016, MUP). Shireen regularly commentates in the press, and in TV and radio. Before becoming a lawyer, Shireen worked as an actress and singer.
Sami Shah has been profiled in the New York Times, appeared on BBC Radio 4. His autobiography "I, MIGRANT" has been nominated for NSW & WA Premier's Literary Awards and the Russell Prize for Humour Writing. His novel "BOY OF FIRE AND EARTH" (available in Aus/NZ as the two-part FIRE BOY and EARTH BOY) was released in 2017 and described as "a place of wonder and terror" by Kamila Shamsie. His most recent non-fiction work, THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF AUSTRALIA is a critically acclaimed investigation that combines history, comedy, and geo-politics. Sami is co-presenter of 774 / ABC Breakfast Radio and has recently hosted “Shut Up”, a five part series on free speech for ABC Radio National.
2019 Conference Chair
Maxine is an author and Hon Enterprise Professor of the Melbourne Graduate School of Education at the University of Melbourne. Her most recent book, published by Melbourne University Press in 2014, is Class Act - a study of the key challenges in Australian schooling. This publication followed the success of her memoir, Tales From the Political Trenches, an account of her brief but tumultuous time in the Federal Parliament. Maxine McKew’s background traverses both journalism and politics. For many years she was a familiar face to ABC TV viewers and was anchor of prestigious programs such as the 7.30 Report and Lateline. Her work has been recognised by
her peers with both Walkely and Logie awards. When she left journalism and made the switch to politics, she wrote herself into the Australian history books by defeating Prime Minister John Howard in the Sydney seat of Bennelong. In government she was both parliamentary secretary for early childhood and later, for regional development and local government. Maxine lives in Melbourne and is a director of Per Capita and the John Cain Foundation. In 2015 she was appointed to serve on the board of the State Library of Victoria and re-appointed for a further term in 2018. She also serves as a non-executive director of New Energy Solar.
2019 SYNDICATE LEADERS
The 2019 Conference
“Many thanks to the McWhirter Foundation for setting up this fantastic conference! It was so engaging. I've never had an experience at any conference which was as effective at drawing in so many different people from so many backgrounds as this one. It was extremely interesting, yet it also felt as though we were contributing to a wider discussion which looks at our societal views and conventions (which managed to get every person in the room thinking!)”
Ned Lindenmeyer | Student attendee
“It was our pleasure to make a donation to the McWirter Foundation. You are providing a great opportunity for young people who are interested in serving their community and in the development of their ethical thinking. Our son was appreciative to be offered the opportunity to attend. He has always been interested in social justice, politics, the historical development of societies and how to effect change, so this was right in his area and has enjoyed the opportunity to interact with other interested people. Thanks for the great work you are doing bringing this opportunity to our youth in Melbourne, it is greatly appreciated locally and in the broader global context!”
Tony McGrath & Simone Rochfort | Student parents
“We would like to thank you so very much for the opportunity you gave us in organising this event and allowing us to participate. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and feel much more educated on the subject as well as more motivated to become more knowledgable about the world around us”
Georgia O’Keeffe and Erin Johnston | Student attendees
“Thank you again for offering this opportunity to our two students They both found the conference to be a fantastic forum to share their passion for global and current issues and spoke about it with praise”.
Julien Escurat | Director of Senior School
Contributing to the debate
The McWhirter Foundation (Australia)
ABN 51 168 281 868