Justice Michael Kirby.
Justice Michael Kirby. The Northern Star

Fighting for justice and human rights

HIGH COURT Justice Michael Kirby hates the term "activist judge", he told a Byron Bay audience yesterday.

But he does believe in taking action, especially when it comes to human rights.

Speaking at Southern Cross University's Activating Human Rights and Peace Conference, the openly gay Justice Kirby described Australia as generally a just society that still has many injustices – among them, the laws regarding homosexuality.

“The reason the law lasted so long is that gay people were programmed since puberty basically to keep it quiet. That's what I did,” he said.

Justice Kirby, who outed himself in Australia's Who's Who, said the term "activist" was too often used as a criticism.

He said real activism was getting to know the reality of other people's lives.

“Human rights means different things to different people,” he said.

“It hasn't fully developed. It doesn't yet deal with business and commercial activities and how they challenge our right to live.”

He said in some countries human rights meant not having female genital mutilation, in others it was the right to an education.

Justice Kirby's visit to Byron Bay coincided with the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Justice Kirby said it was a document that contained fundamental principals of humanity.

“Too many of us only play lip service to human rights,” he said.

“We live in a world of weapons of mass destruction and unless we can get together and find universal values our species may not survive.”

The conference continues at the Byron Bay Community and Cultural Centre until Friday with topics including 'Global Critical Race Feminism' and 'Democracy and Human Rights in South-East Asia'.

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