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Why social justice matters


15 November 2012

Social justice deals with issues of inequality and disadvantage in society.
Social justice deals with issues of inequality and disadvantage in society.

Social justice is an often-discussed concept, but what exactly does it mean and what are today's most pressing social justice concerns?

This week a special Sydney Ideas forum will ask how social justice research can bring together practitioners, policy makers, citizens and academics in new ways to address inequality and disadvantage.

Two civil society activists, Jody Broun, co-chair of the National Congress of Australia's First People, and Dr Amanda Tattersall, director of Sydney Alliance, will be joined on the panel by Professor Duncan Ivison, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and Professor Robert J Tierney, Dean of the Faculty of Education and Social Work (both at the University of Sydney).

"Just outcomes that deliver for the common good require both brawn and brain," said Dr Tattersall ahead of the panel. "The Sydney Alliance is delighted to be in conversation with the University of Sydney about how citizens can partner with academics to advance practical change to improve our city, country and world."

At a time of growing inequality in many parts of the world - including Europe, North America and Asia - Professor Ivison said the concept of social justice needs to resume its place at the centre of public discourse.

Said Professor Ivison: "Social justice is a contested concept, but ultimately it has to do with not just identifying those inequalities that are unjustifiable and should be redressed, but also about inspiring a vision for what kind of society we want to live in, and what we need to do to achieve it."

Jody Broun said her organisation "is built on a platform of social justice and a history of Aboriginal people fighting for their rights in this country. Our job at Congress is to ensure our peoples are able to have a say and to promote and defend our rights."

This special event, chaired by leading social justice advocate Dr Meredith Burgmann, will mark the launch of the Sydney Social Justice Network at the University of Sydney. The SSJN has been established to enable researchers from across the university to work with community members and civil society organisation on social justice issues.


About the speakers

Jody Broun is Co-Chair of the National Congress of Australia's First People. A Yindjibarndi woman from the Pilbara, Jody has headed a number of government bodies in her 25-year career, including a stint as Director General of the NSW Department of Aboriginal Affairs. Jody is also a well-known and respected artist, winning the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award in 1998 and the Canberra Art Award in 2005.

Duncan Ivison is Professor of Political Philosophy and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Sydney. His books include: The Self at Liberty: Political Argument and the Arts of Government (1997), Postcolonial Liberalism (2002), Rights (2008) and The Ashgate Research Companion to Multiculturalism (2010).

Dr Amanda Tattersall is Coalition Director and founder of the Sydney Alliance. Amanda was the President of the National Union of Students in 1999 (NSW Branch) the co-founder of Labor for Refugees in 2001 and is a former chair and current board member of GetUp.org.au. Amanda is an honorary fellow in the discipline of work and organisational studies at the University of Sydney, and the author of Power in coalition: strategies for strong unions and social change (2010).

Robert J Tierney's commitment to equity and social justice and the transformative power of education informs his scholarship and professional practice. Prior to returning to Australia and become Dean of the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Sydney, Rob was Dean of the Faculty of Education, University of British Columbia.

Meredith Burgmann (forum chair) is the President of The Australian Council for International Development, the peak body for Australia's non-government aid and development agencies. She was an industrial relations academic for 20 years before she was elected as a Labor member of the NSW Parliament in 1991. She was the President of the Legislative Council from 1999 until her retirement in 2007.


Event details

What: Why Social Justice Matters, a Sydney Ideas talk co-presented with the Sydney Social Justice Network at the University of Sydney

When: 6pm, Friday 16 November

Where: Lecture Theatre 101, Level 1, New Law Building, Camperdown Campus. See map 

Cost: Free, registration required

Book now online 


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Media enquiries: Kath Kenny, 0478 303 173, 02 9351 1584, kath.kenny@sydney.edu.au