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Law School to teach activism skills


30 November 2003
A new university-accredited course which teaches the skills and techniques of public interest advocacy is being offered by Southern Cross University (SCU).

The advocacy unit has been designed by Aidan Ricketts, a Law Lecturer at SCU and activist of 20 years experience. Mr Ricketts will present the course at the Law School's Byron Bay Summer Law School, from December 6 to 12, where he will be joined by a range of experts in the field.

The unit is aimed at students, lawyers, activists and members of the public with an interest in social change. It is concerned with teaching the skills of lobbying, organising, media, protest and advocacy in general.

“This course will teach the skills of activism, not content or ideology,” Mr Ricketts said.

“Public interest advocacy can be in many forms; it can include welfare activism such as people wanting to get better facilities for disabled children, it can be grey power, or it can be about more familiar topics like peace, human rights or the environment,” he said.

“I am, above all, an advocate of a robust view of democracy. Democracy depends upon citizen involvement in public life on a day-to-day basis. People may find strikes, blockades, protests and marches a temporary inconvenience, but all this is the price of a healthy democracy. Governments should never be allowed to operate as secretive elected dictatorships.”

Mr Ricketts played a leading role in the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA)’s successful 10-year battle to save old-growth forests on public land in NSW from logging.

He will be joined in teaching the course by fellow NEFA campaigner, John Corkill, who was earlier this year awarded the mainstream honour of an Order of Australia medal (OAM) for his activist work. The principal solicitor from the Public Interest Advocacy Centre in Sydney, Simon Moran, will be presenting some of the sessions, as will a variety of other local experts, including Simon Clough.

“When we first started writing up this course we jokingly called it Tips for Troublemakers,” Mr Ricketts said. “We’ve been labelled everything from ratbags and green extremists to dangerous radicals. In reality we are just serious about the practice of democracy.

“This is not one of Minister Nelson's ‘cappuccino courses’: we draw on professional skills and knowledge from across a range of professions including law, journalism, public administration and psychology,” he said. “It is academically rigorous and very real world in its focus.”

As well as focusing on changing government policy, the course will explore ways of influencing corporations, Mr Ricketts said. “They are fast becoming the new governance institutions in our society and citizens need to be able to tackle them as well.”

Mr Ricketts has researched and published extensively in the fields of civil liberties, environmental law, and anti-terrorism law. He has also completed a Masters of Law that critiques the political rights of transnational corporations. He has been a lecturer in the School of Law and Justice at SCU since 1995.

The Public Interest Advocacy Unit will also be available on an ongoing basis to all students at SCU as an elective from 2004, through SCU’s School of Law and Justice.

For more information about the Byron Bay Summer Law School contact SCU's School of Law and Justice Ph: 6620 3104.

Media contact: SCU media liaison Brigid Veale Ph: 02 6659 3380 or M: 0439 680 748 or
Sara Crowe Ph: 02 6620 3144, M: 0439 858 057.