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Seminar highlights human rights issues


Brigid Veale
23 October 2007
A former director of a human rights organisation in Guatemala will be one of two speakers at a Doing Social Justice seminar at Southern Cross University’s Coffs Harbour campus on Thursday (October 25).

Nick Rose, who has trained as a lawyer in Melbourne and worked as a legal researcher and trade union legal officer in the United Kingdom in the 1990s, moved to Bellingen with his family last year after spending six-and-a-half years in Guatemala working with grassroots human rights groups. He is currently doing a PhD with RMIT examining the impact of the war on terrorism and globalisation on human rights.

The other speaker will be Southern Cross University Bachelor of Social Science student Kate Leary, who recently spent time in Venezuela working with a documentary film crew.

Kate is currently working as a settlement worker with Anglicare in Coffs Harbour and is facilitating various groups with their advocacy and change efforts.

Nick said Guatemala was one of the most economically unequal countries in Central America.

“Two per cent of the population have 70 per cent of the land and a lot of the people are exposed to malnutrition because they have no land to grow crops. Some of them are driven to such depths of desperation they are selling their children,” Nick said.

“There is a growing trade in international adoption. Human life is increasingly just another commercial product. Vulnerable teenage mothers are selling their newborn babies for a few hundred dollars, while childless couples in the global north are paying thousands in lawyers’ and agents’ fees to smooth the 'adoption process'. That is just one of the dark undersides of globalisation.”

Nick said there were also horrific reports of trade in children’s organs in Guatemala.

“These days the world is more and more interconnected. It’s important to make yourself aware of the reality of people in other parts of the world.”

Uschi Bay, a lecturer in School of Arts and Social Sciences and organiser of the seminar, said the talks would provide an insight into social justice issues, not often dealt with in the general media.

All members of the public are welcome to attend. The seminar is free and will be held on Thursday, October 25, from 1pm to 2pm, in the D150 lecture theatre, Coffs Harbour campus.