Symposium generates high level of public interest 

The Charles Darwin Symposium will be chaired by the ABC's Leon Compton

A high level of public interest has already been generated for the Charles Darwin Symposium on Statehood and a Bill of Rights on May 10.

With registrations accepted until the day, the convenors are expecting a big crowd to fill the Mal Nairn auditorium to hear a range of international and national speakers debate these vital constitutional issues.

Charles Darwin Symposia have become a regular part of intellectual life in the Territory, organised as a partnership between Charles Darwin University, the NT Government and the Australian National University.

Securing Territorians’ Rights: Statehood and a Bill of Rights offers the public the chance to assess the pros and cons of the often controversial debate on human rights and Statehood for the Territory.

Speakers include Professor George Williams from the University of NSW, who is a passionate advocate of a Bill of Rights. Professor Williams is a frequent media commentator and the author of 13 books.

He recently chaired the community consultation committee for the Victorian Government as it prepared its own human rights legislation called the Charter of Rights and Responsibilities Act.

Professor Williams will address why the Northern Territory should consider adopting a Bill of Rights, reflecting on his experiences in Victoria.

An opposing view will be put by James Allan, Garrick Professor of Law at the University of Queensland. Professor Allan says he is happy to live in a country that does not have a Bill of Rights, and will argue against the desirability of any jurisdiction introducing one.

The history of the movement towards Statehood will be outlined by Sue Bradley, the co-convenor of the Statehood Steering Committee.

Providing an alternative viewpoint on the Statehood issue will be CDU Professor of History David Carment, who will argue that the view that the Territory is not democratically governed under current constitutional arrangements is misleading.

He also says that the Territory’s Aboriginal leadership sees little benefit in Statehood.

The Symposia’s international guest is Dr Ravi de Costa from York University in Toronto, Canada. Dr Ravi, now an Associate Professor, completed undergraduate and doctoral degrees in Australia, and has an understanding of the Bill of Rights issues from an international and an indigenous perspective.

His paper will expand on the theme that human rights provide a vital context for the improvement of human welfare.

Among the other speakers are Dr Annemarie Devereux, who has worked with the United Nations peace-keeping mission in Timor and is a specialist in international human rights law, and Associate Professor Simon Evans from the University of Melbourne, whose speciality is constitutional and statutory human rights protection.

Mr Tom Calma, who has broad experience in public affairs and social policy, will discuss the issues from an Indigenous perspective.

With such a high-calibre line-up of speakers, the Symposium is expected to offer plenty of provocative commentary and debate as Territorians grapple with these issues over the next few years.

Due to the late withdrawal through illness of radio presenter Philip Adams, the Symposium will be chaired by the ABC’s Leon Compton.

Register your attendance by logging onto the CDU website and following the Symposium link on the home page.