Professor Mary Heath
Dr Anne Poelina
Dr Nicole Rogers
Aidan Ricketts (Moderator)
The climate emergency intersects with democracy in complex ways. Large vested interests have influenced the democratic process by funding and promoting climate denial and thus inhibited government responsiveness, whilst a corresponding wave of climate activism has been confronted with an authoritarian backlash in the form of aggressive policing and anti-protest laws. Can democratic social movements, including First Nations peoples turn the situation around or is some kind of social, economic and ultimately ecological ‘Fall” inevitable. What forms of regenerative culture might be possible following a major Fall event. In short is democracy a resilient and adaptive enough system to respond to the climate emergency?”
Mary Heath lectured in law at Flinders University for 25 years. Her research focused on rape law reform, theories of the state and legal education. In 2018 she took voluntary redundancy in order to become an organiser for Extinction Rebellion, which is using nonviolent civil disobedience to drive action on the climate and ecological crisis.
Dr Poelina is a Nyikina Warrwa Traditional Owner and a guardian of the Mardoowarra, Lower Fitzroy River in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Anne is the Managing Director of Madjulla Inc., Chair of the Martuwarra Fitzroy River Council and Deputy Chair of the Walalakoo Aboriginal Corporation (Native Title Body Corporate). Dr Poelina’s life career in Indigenous, human and environmental advocacy spans four decades achievements include Master Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Master Education, Master Arts (Indigenous Social Policy), Doctor of Philosophy & Doctor of Health Science Scholar. Peter Cullen Fellow (2011), Laureate Women’s World Summit Foundation (Geneva) (2017). Adjunct Senior Research Fellow the University of Notre Dame (Nulungu Institute of Research), Adjunct Research Fellow Charles Darwin University.
Dr Nicole Rogers is a Senior Lecturer at the School of Law and Justice, Southern Cross University and was a founding member of the School. She researches and writes in the areas of wild law, climate law, climate activism and performance studies theory and the law. From 2014 to 2017 she instigated and co-led the Wild Law Judgment project. She is co-editor of Law as if Earth Really Mattered: The Wild Law Judgment Project (Routledge, 2017) and author of Law, Fiction and Activism in a Time of Climate Change (Routledge, 2019).
Sue Higginson is a public interest environmental lawyer, the former CEO and Principal Solicitor of EDO NSW, and was the Greens candidate for the seat of Lismore in the 2019 state election. Sue is a graduate of the School of Law and Justice, and celebrated alumnus. In 2018 she was keynote speaker at the annual Michael Kirby Lecture which was the first time a distinguished graduate of the SLJ joined the ranks of Kirby lecturers. Sue’s compelling paper, ‘The Lawfare Problem: A Case for an Environmental Rule of Law’ explored the critical role of public interest environmental litigation in protecting the environment and upholding the rule of law.
“Working in the pursuit of environmental justice, as hard as it can be, is very rewarding. It involves being positive and having an optimistic vision. When we work to protect the environment we are doing so in the public interest, it often involves speaking up for things and places that cannot speak for themselves.”
Aidan Ricketts is an academic with the School of Law and Justice at Southern Cross University and is also an internationally recognised social change trainer. Aidan is the author of “The Activists Handbook: A Step by Step guide to Participatory Democracy”, first published in 2012 and distributed internationally, including in the UK, North America, Australia and the Pacific.
Aidan has over thirty years experience participating in, researching and writing about social movements. This has included civil liberties campaigns in Qld in the 1980’s, the Daintree campaign, forest campaigns in NSW in the 1990’s and 2000s; more recent work with Lock the Gate and the Bentley Blockade in 2014, and most recently, Extinction Rebellion and the school climate strike. Aidan provides consultation to many social movement organisations on topics as diverse as media, police liaison, non-violent direct action and leaderful organisational models. In his academic work he analyses internal dynamics in social movements and also keeps abreast of rapidly advancing anti-protest laws around Australia.
Aidan is a regular speaker at conferences, festivals and other events around Australia where he is often asked to help inspire emerging activists to stay motivated in the face of the dire and challenging times we live in. Aidan’s response, grounded in a study of complex systems theory, is as follows “The more dire the times are, the more we need to step up. We don’t get to choose our time in history, but we get to choose what we do in it. At times like this where the entire planetary system is in crisis, the potential for abrupt shifts and transformation is also increased. Adaptation will outlive backlash and we need to be at the forefront of an adaptive response to our collective predicaments.”