: The Last Word

The Last Word

Lawyers always want to have the last word. Whether it's argumentative, controversial, eccentric or personal, this column allows one author to open a can of worms and see what wriggles out!

Queer politics in queer times: Queer Wars

Josh Pallas

We are living in very queer times in Australia. Queer politics is a consistent feature in our newspapers and on our television screens. The demonisation of Safe Schools, calls from the Family Court’s Chief Justice Diana Bryant to change the laws regarding special medical procedures for transgender children, and the queer issue par excellence of the day — same sex marriage and the plebiscite. It seems that, today, everyone from politicians to the person in the corner store has an opinion on queer rights.

Despite this, global queer politics rarely rates a mention in Australian politics. Whether it’s the brutal attacks on prominent queers in Bangladesh, the clampdown on queer rights in Indonesia or the degrading rhetoric and actions of the Islamic State towards queers in Syria and Iraq, 2016 has been a big year for queer politics. This can be contrasted with the ‘gay rights as human rights’ rhetoric which is seemingly gaining momentum in parts of the world, and greater awareness and attention of queer rights by international organisations and bodies.

(2016) 41(4) AltLJ 294


Life after Mercy

Angus Smith

It’s just after midnight in New York. Matthew Sleeth, a Melbourne artist who divides his time between the two cities, is wide awake.

‘At first I just wanted it to go away.’ The crackle isn’t the Skype connection. Sleeth has had some time to grieve and reflect, but his voice is still troubled, his words haunted. 

In April 2005, Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan were arrested, along with the seven other members of the ‘Bali 9’, for attempting to smuggle heroin from Indonesia to Australia. 

Sleeth made many trips to Kerobokan prison, first as an art and theatre instructor, organised by the ‘Mercy’ support campaign. Later, he just visited as Myuran and Andrew’s friend. 

‘People say “they were drug dealers” well yes they were, that’s the point, rehabilitation doesn’t mean starting out perfect and ending perfect, it means starting out flawed … insight only comes after you have fucked up really badly, unfortunately it doesn’t come sitting in a lounge chair at home.’

(2016) 41(3) AltLJ 220


Spotlight on coronial justice

Rebecca Scott Bray

The Hillsborough and Sydney Siege Inquests

In the first half of 2016, two very different but significant inquests — on opposite sides of the world — entered their final stages. In Sydney, Australia, the inquest into the deaths resulting from the 17-hour siege at the Lindt café in December 2014 has been undergoing its final segment of public hearings before State Coroner Michael Barnes, after beginning in January 2015. The inquest has scrutinised the siege and events around it, including key questions such as why the gunman was on bail, what the authorities knew about him, and police decision-making in response to the siege. Meanwhile, on 26 April 2016, in Warrington, north-west England, following a two-year hearing beginning in March 2014, the jury emerged after two weeks of deliberation to deliver the conclusion of 'unlawful killing' in the Hillsborough Inquests before the Right Honourable Sir John Goldring, sitting as Assistant Coroner.

(2016) 41(2) AltLJ 146


Life Imitating Art?

Paula Gerber

Gay and lesbian families on and off the silver screen

It is a sign of how far we have come with respecting the rights of lesbian and gay people that there are currently several movies where the main themes revolve around the lived experience of gays and lesbians and their families.1 It is a sign of how far we still have to go, that the New South Wales government banned the screening of one of these movies in schools.2

Freeheld and Gayby Baby are both films that depict the reality of being lesbian or gay, or the children of lesbians and gays, in the 21st Century. However, that is where the similarities end. Freeheld is an American drama starring Julianne Moore and Ellen Page, while Gayby Baby is an Australian documentary chronicling the lives of four children in same-sex families.

(2015) 40(4) AltLJ 294


Key change: The role of music in law reform

Tim Hollo

In early 2014, a video was released of people in the typhoon-ravaged Philippines dancing to Pharrell Williams’ pop hit, ‘Happy’. While it would be hard to find a song less ‘political’ on the surface, the power of this video, showing happiness, strength and humanity amid the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan, was such that it was soon replicated. Dancers in Tunis, Moscow and the Ukraine used the format to convey their struggle for freedom and what happiness means to them. Blogger Shan Wang recently wrote, in the online youth current affairs magazine .Mic, that ‘“Happy” came into the world apolitical, but it’s something more now — it’s a song of resilience and resolve under incredible hardship’.1

Pharrell Williams’ song tapped into emotions and opened new ways of understanding the world for new audiences. In building resilience and group identity in the dancers themselves and those around them, it helped create social and political change.

(2015) 40(3) AltLJ 219


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