Photo credit: Matt HrKac


The Power of Protest

Public protest plays a crucial role in our democracy. Government decisions should serve the community, but when these decisions fail to accurately represent the priorities of the public, protests are a powerful way of sending a collective message: this isn’t what we want, and we will be heard.

Under the pretext of COVID-19 public health orders, there’s been a recent increase in political and legal repression of the right to protest around the world. But despite this opposition, protest during the pandemic has flourished. The past year has seen the release of 100 Medevac refugees after more than eight years in detention, as well as a dramatic rise in support for the Black Lives Matter movement. At a time when authorities are seeking to silence public dissent, can protest reframe vital conversations and generate social and legal change?

We’ll examine the power of protest both inside and outside detention: its role in raising public awareness, the pressure it places on governments, and the impact of solidarity. We’ll hear from Farhad Bandesh, activist, musician and recently released Medevac refugee; Chris Breen, a Refugee Action Collective member who faced incitement charges for protest during the lockdown; and Celeste Liddle, Arrernte woman, Greens candidate and vocal opponent of Australia's asylum seeker policies. Hosted by Maria O’Sullivan, Deputy Director of the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law.

Presented in partnership with Refugee Action Collective

The Power of Protest


Portrait of Celeste Liddle

Celeste Liddle

Celeste Liddle is an Arrernte woman (traditional owner in Central Australia) who was born in Canberra and has been living in Melbourne since she was a teenager. She is a trade unionist, an activist, a feminist, a social commentator and an opinion writer. In May 2021, she was announced as the preselected Greens candidate for the seat of Cooper in the upcoming Federal Election.

Portrait of Chris Breen

Chris Breen

Chris Breen is a long time activist with the Refugee Action Collective, a teacher and an AEU Branch Councillor. He was recently found not guilty on incitement charges for a safe car convoy protest calling to free the Medevac refugees during the lockdown.

Portrait of Maria O'Sullivan

Maria O'Sullivan

Maria O'Sullivan is an Associate Professor and a Deputy Director of the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law. Maria is the author of a number of international and national publications on the subject of human rights, public law and refugee law. 

Portrait of Farhad Bandesh

Farhad Bandesh

Farhad Bandesh is a freed Medevac refugee and an artist and musician who fled Iran in 2013. He organised protests inside detention where he was held by Australia for seven years.


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