Greta Bird Lecture in Legal Theory and Critique

Each year Southern Cross University and the School of Law and Justice hold the Greta Bird Lecture in Legal Theory and Critique, which features a keynote address by a prominent academic in the areas of law, human rights, social policy or justice.

The lecture series is named after Adjunct Professor Greta Bird who was a founding member of the School of Law and Justice, and scholar in the fields of multiculturalism and the law, Indigenous studies, law and society, feminist critique, and critical race theory.  She was an Australian Law Reform Commissioner on the Multiculturalism and Law reference, which reported in 1992 (Multiculturalism and the Law, Report 57), and Director of the National Centre for Cross-cultural Studies in Law. Her work has consistently broken new ground in Australian legal scholarship. Greta is the author of numerous works, including The Civilizing Mission: Race and the Construction of Crime (1987), and The Process of Law in Australia: Intercultural Perspectives (1993).


The 3rd Annual Greta Bird Lecture in Legal Theory and Critique
4 December 2019 at Southern Cross University, Gold Coast Campus

Save the date image for the 2019 Greta Bird Lecture in Legal Theory and CritiqueOur keynote speaker, Professor Karin van Marle, teaches legal philosophy and interpretation at the Department of Public Law of the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, South Africa. Her research involves critical theory, legal philosophy and jurisprudence. Her work engages the crisis of modernity and a rethinking of legal theory along lines of fragility, finitude and a ‘giving up of certitudes’. She is an ethical feminist and her research and writing are inspired by and embedded in feminist theory. Recent publications include ‘Ubuntu-feminism – Tentative reflections’ (with D Cornell) (2015) Verbum et Ecclesia; ‘Post-1994 jurisprudence and its coming of age stories’ (2015) No foundations; ‘Mandela in/ and Pretoria’ Image and text (2015); ‘ ‘Welcoming’other ways of being and knowing’ (2017) Feminists@law; ‘Modernities and the making of worlds’ (2018) Law and Literature 11-27; ‘”Life is not simply fact”: Aesthetics, atmosphere and the neolibeal university’ Law and critique.

Abstract: Thoughts on a jurisprudence of doubt

Drawing on a number of perspectives and ideas, this paper considers the notion of the Constitution as a living document, the (im)possibility of politics and the (in)capacity of a constitution to allow for a politics that is not always already limited by its own structure.  What is crucial is the idea of ‘resistibility’ that could keep potential for politics, ‘community’ and with it, world making, open. The drawings and technique of drawing followed by South African artist William Kentridge serve as inspiration for its reflections, in particular his embrace of hesitation, provisionality and doubt.


The 2nd Annual Greta Bird Lecture in Legal Theory and Critique
29 November 2018 at the Fountain Room, Lismore City Hall

2018 Greta Bird Lecture - Professor Katherine BiberOur keynote speaker, Professor Katherine Biber is a legal scholar, criminologist and historian, and Professor of Law at the University of Technology Sydney. She is author of In Crime’s Archive: The Cultural Afterlife of Evidence (Routledge, 2018), and Captive Images: Race, Crime, Photography (Routledge, 2007). Her work examines the laws of evidence and criminal procedure, and the role of documentation, visual culture and particularly photography in the law. Her next project will be a legal history of the Aboriginal outlaw, Jimmy Governor.

Abstract: The Afterlife of Criminal Evidence 

The lecture examines the cultural afterlife of criminal evidence. It explores what happens to criminal evidence after the conclusion of the trial. Formally regarded as part of the court record, and subject to the rules of evidence within the trial, beyond the trial this material has aroused the interest of artists, publishers, historians, curators and journalists who wish to access and use this material for a wide range of purposes, some of which might be transgressive, dangerous or insensitive.

The lecture will explore criminal evidence now experiencing a cultural afterlife, drawing examples from museums, archives, the news media, private collections, strange hobbies and retired detectives’ garages. In its afterlife, criminal evidence gives rise to new uses and interpretations, many of which are creative and transformative of crime and evidence. It allows us to see not only the probative value of evidence, but also its ethical, affective and aesthetic dimensions.

The lecture will trace what happened to the evidence presented in the criminal and coronial proceedings following the death of Azaria Chamberlain; it will examine efforts to manage the voluminous evidence gathered by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia; it looks at the work of a criminal record Expungement Clinic in Philadelphia; amongst other examples. The lecture asks what is at stake when evidence survives the criminal proceedings in which it was adduced: what can it do, and what should we do with it?


The Inaugural Greta Bird Lecture in Legal Theory and Critique
14 November 2017, in partnership with the Byron Writers Festival

Inaugural Greta Bird Lecture in Legal Theory and Critique, November 2017Our keynote speaker, Professor Michele Bratcher Goodwin, Chancellor’s Professor of Law at the University of California at Irvine and Director, Centre for Biotechnology and Global Health Policy. A distinguished legal theorist of race, gender and the law, Professor Goodwin is one of America’s leading experts on and of health law and its ‘politics’. Her book, Black Markets: The Supply and Demand of Body Parts (Cambridge, 2006) is a classic of its kind, exploring the racialised nature of the trade in organ ‘donation’ [more]

Abstract: Pregnancy, Poverty and the State

The inaugural lecture canvassed the question – Should the State Control a Woman’s Right to Choose? Soon to be published in the 2018 Yale Law Journal, ‘Pregnancy, Poverty and the State’ explored intersecting issues of race, politics, the law, and a woman’s right to choose.

Why do governments fund births but not abortions in countries like the US, when death rates from childbirth are higher than those from abortions? Astonishingly, Texas has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the developed world, as people with little money struggle to access health care.

Poor women are losing control over their bodies and their rights as a result of court decisions and changes in US legislation – with clear lessons for Australia. That’s the view of Professor Michele Bratcher Goodwin, one of the world’s leading experts in reproductive rights.

Shaping policy relating to abortions and reproduction through ideology rather than objective, evidence-based principles of justice, and its consequences, will be the focus of the inaugural Southern Cross University School of Law & Justice Greta Bird Lecture in Legal Theory and Critique, presented by visiting Chancellor’s Professor of Law at UC-Irvine, Professor Bratcher Goodwin.

Researchers have found that 49% of US pregnancies are unintended, but this rate is higher in traditionally conservative States – for example 54% in Texas, and 62% in Mississippi. The consequence of government decisions to fund childbirth but not abortions has meant many women cannot afford abortions – putting more poor women in danger.

Professor Bratcher Goodwin will examine the role of the State in controlling a woman’s right to choose, and to make decisions in relation to pregnancy and privacy, which could improve their chances of survival.

The lecture was followed by a Q & A hosted by ABC Radio National’s Paul Barclay, which was broadcast nationally on RN’s Big Ideas. The podcast for both the lecture and Q&A is available from the ABC Radio National Big Ideas website.