Justice Kirby delivers 2016 Max Charlesworth Oration
Tackling hard ethical issues calmly. Max Charlesworth, Bioethics, Refugees and Sexuality
Former Justice of the High Court of Australia and esteemed founding Foundation House Patron, The Honourable Michael Kirby AC CMG delivered the 2016 Max Charlesworth Oration to a large audience on Thursday evening. The Oration, which began in 2006, was originally conceived to mark both Refugee Week and the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. Each year the Oration brings together many who are committed to human rights.
Welcoming guests to Swanston Hall at the Melbourne Town Hall, Lord Mayor Robert Doyle declared that the Town Hall was “indeed doing its job having such important public discourse occur within its walls”. Mayor Doyle praised Foundation House and its work across Victoria and expressed his delight in welcoming orator Justice Kirby whom he described as “a national voice of reason, intellect and compassion”.
Chair of Foundation House Board of Management, Lynne Haultain acknowledged the traditional indigenous owners of the land on which the Oration would take place by reading the Foundation House Indigenous Statement. She warmly welcomed the many members of the Charlesworth family, in attendance to honour the longstanding contribution of the late Max Charlesworth AO, philosopher and bioethicist and founding patron of Foundation House – in particular Max’s wife Stephanie Charlesworth and daughter and co-patron Prof. Hilary Charlesworth AM.
Introducing Justice Kirby, Lynne commented on the great synergy of having a person of great “rationality, careful deliberation and consideration of humanity” deliver an oration honouring his personal friend Max Charlesworth, a man of equal calm, thoughtfulness and intellectual courage.
The oration delivered by Justice Kirby wove together a number of the great ethical issues of modern time including bioethical issues of reproductive technologies and euthanasia, marriage equality in Australia and the dilemma of large scale irregular people movement, asylum seekers and offshore detention and processing. In simultaneously commenting on each of these issues and honouring Max Charlesworth, Justice Kirby skilfully asked the audience to reflect on each of the issues asking “how would Max Charlesworth have approached this morally and ethically perplexing question?” or put more simply “What would Max have done?”
In his oratory covering present day asylum and refugee issues, Justice Kirby expressed his view that the Foundation House statement regarding people transferred by Australia to Papua New Guinea and Nauru was “exactly as Max would have done it with calm, rational and respectful debate”.
Throughout the oration and in the question session facilitated by Foundation House CEO, Paris Aristotle AM that followed, the audience was able to learn more about the work of Max Charlesworth and at the same time reflect on key ethical concerns within the framework of the “Charlesworth test” of calm, careful consideration paired with rational and respectful argument.
To read the full text of Justice Kirby’s Oration, click here
For more details on the Max Charlesworth Oration and previous orations click here.