American marriage equality campaigner Jim Obergefell calls himself ‘an accidental activist’, but his name will appear in the history books for many years to come. He was the plaintiff in last year’s landmark Obergefell v Hodge Supreme Court decision, which legalised same-sex marriage across the United States.
During his visit to Melbourne, Obergefell will join four revered local activists – Elaine Pearson, Gary Foley, Amelia Telford and Tess Lawley – to discuss the prospect of political change in the 21st century.
What can we learn from the mistakes and achievements of other political movements across the globe? What does social media bring in terms of myths, risks and opportunities for activists? How do different generations approach political change, and which approaches are most effective? Our speakers will answer these questions, and many more, on the theme of changing the world in 2016.
Jim Obergefell is a civil rights activist who embraced his newfound role after the U.S. Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land on June 26, 2015. A former Cincinnati realtor, he has worked with organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign and Equality, Ohio, and has been honored with awards from organizations such as Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Elders (SAGE), Equality Florida, Equality North Carolina, the ACLU of Southern California, Cleveland Stonewall Democrats, the International Court Council, the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, and the Ohio Democratic Party.
Elaine Pearson is the Australia Director at Human Rights Watch. Based in Sydney, she works to influence Australian foreign and domestic policies in order to give them a human rights dimension. Pearson regularly briefs journalists, politicians and government officials, appears on television and radio programs, testifies before parliamentary committees and speaks at public events. Pearson writes frequently for publications including Harper's Bazaar, the Guardian and the Wall Street Journal. She is an adjunct lecturer in law at the University of New South Wales. From 2007 to 2012 she was the Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch's Asia Division based in New York.
Tess Lawley is a passionate and vocal advocate for sharing the stories and opinions of marginalised voices in our community. Tess is the General Manager of youth community media organisation SYN, a volunteer presenter on Melbourne's Triple R and sits on the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia's board. Once a meek teenager who never rocked the boat, Tess has seen firsthand how empowering storytelling and media can be.
Gary Foley is an Australian Aboriginal Gumbainggir activist, academic, writer and actor. He is best known for his role in establishing the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra in 1972 and for establishing an Aboriginal Legal Service in Redfern in the 1970s. He is currently a Professor of History at Victoria University.
Amelia Telford, a young Aboriginal and South Sea Islander woman from Bundjalung country, is the National Director for the Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network.
Alongside the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, Amelia supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people building a movement for climate justice. Amelia was awarded National NAIDOC Youth of Year in 2014 for her commitment to building a more just and sustainable future for all young people.