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Past event: Animal Rights and the Rights of Nature - Intersections and Tensions

This event was held by the Earth Laws Network

Since 1892, when Henry Salt presented an idea that animals may have rights as beneficiaries of ethical extension, the animal rights movement has been active in many societies throughout the world. In 2008, the new Ecuadorian Constitution was the first country to enshrine intrinsic 'rights of nature' within its national legislation, and was followed in 2011 by the first successful case in which these rights were recognized in a court of law. This type of recognition raises a number of issues in relation to non human animals - are animal 'rights' a component of the rights of nature, or are they separate and distinct? Moreover, do these rights-based visions accord with Indigenous worldviews and epistemologies?

The School of Law and Justice's Earth Laws Network invites you to a symposium that seeks to explore the intersections, tensions and commonalities between the Rights of Nature and Animal Rights. The symposium will be led by three prominent speakers who will present a range of perspectives on these issues, including whether the sometimes competing interests of ecological protection and those of sentient non human animals may be accommodated by juridical interventions predicated on the rights of nature. Following the presentations by each of the guest speakers, symposium attendees will be invited to participate in small workshop groups to explore the themes and issues raised. Further details will be provided on the day.


Michael Anderson - Aboriginal activist and co-founder of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy

Michael AndersonMichael Anderson is a Murri of the Eauhlayi (Pronounced: 'You-R-Lay-I') nation - located in the border area of south western Queensland and New South Wales.He has a wealth of political knowledge and involvement in the liberation struggle of his people. Having moved to Sydney as a youth to further his studies Michael became a leading figure in the Black Power movement of the 1970s which culminated in him leading the group of four young Aborigines to set up and establish the now famous Aboriginal (tent) Embassy on the front lawns of Parliament House in Canberra. In the midst of this, Michael went through his ceremonial law, which he completed with great sacrifice and endurance of the Elders who at the time were in their late 70s and 80s.

At the end of the 1970s Michael went on to study law, history, and social science. After acting as Instructing officer with the NSW Attorney-General in the District Court, Criminal Law Division, in 1973 he was sent by the Whitlam Labor Government to work in the United States' State Department to observe the drafting of the Kennedy Enquiry 'Causes and Results' of the race riots throughout the United States during the 1960s and 1970s. Michael was later appointed to the NSW Land and Environment Court as a technical assessor and conciliation officer, a position he held for five years. During the mid-1980s, he was director of research for the National Treaty between the National Aboriginal Conference and the Commonwealth of Australia.

Michael now lives back on his traditional country running a business in cattle and sheep grazing. Alongside this, he has continued his political campaigning, founding the NEW Way Sovereignty Summit movement. He is the leader of the Euahlayi nation and was elected as its representative on the Northern Basin Aboriginal Nations to advance the traditional owners' call for cultural water flows in the Murray Darling basin. He has recently been elected by the people of the Gumilaroi Nation as a representative traditional owner to advance all claim in respect of land, natural resources, and to advance the Gumilaroi sovereignty over their lands and other territories.

Anne Schillmoller - Adjunct Fellow, School of Law & Justice, Southern Cross University

Anne SchillmollerAnne is an animal law educator, advocate and activist. As a lecturer at Southern Cross University for more than two decades, Anne developed teaching and research expertise in the areas of legal philosophy, administrative law and animal law. Recently retired from full-time employment, Anne uses her skills to advocate for animal interests through community and professional education projects. She is a member of the Animal Law Education Project at the Northern Rivers Community Legal Centre in Lismore.

Anne shares her rural property in northern NSW with numerous non human animals. While alert to the hazards of anthropocentrism, she continues to struggle with the reality of her human privilege.

Cormac Cullinan - Author of Wild Law and co-founder of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature

Cormac CullinanCormac is an author, practising environmental attorney and governance expert who has worked on environmental governance issues in more than 20 countries. He lives in Cape Town, South Africa and is a director of a specialist environmental and green business law firm (Cullinan & Associates) and of the governance consultancy, EnAct International.

His ground-breaking book Wild Law A Manifesto for Earth Justice has played a significant role in informing and inspiring a growing international movement to recognise rights for nature. In 2008 he was included in Planet Savers. 301 Extraordinary Environmentalists, a book that profiles environmentalists throughout history.

At the invitation of Bolivia, Cormac spoke at the 2009 Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen and led the drafting of the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth which was proclaimed on 22 April 2010 by the People's World Conference on Climate Change and the Environment in Bolivia. In September 2010 he played a leading role in establishing a Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature and currently sits on its executive committee.