2012 Sandy Duncanson Social Justice Lecture


Presented by jurist and reformer, Andrea Durbach

Start Date

5th Sep 2012 6:00pm

End Date

5th Sep 2012 8:30pm


Stanley Burbury Theatre, University Centre, Churchill Avenue, Sandy Bay campus

RSVP / Contact Information

E:; P: 6226 2521

The 2012 Sandy Duncanson Social Justice Lecture

"A Common Purpose - Inching the Law towards Justice"

will be presented by jurist and reformer

Andrea Durbach

Deputy Sex Discrimination Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission,
Director of the Australian Human Rights Centre and Associate Professor in the Faculty of Law at UNSW


The lecture will be followed by a screening of the award-winning new film

"A Common Purpose"

The Sandy Duncanson Social Justice Lecture is an annual event presented by the
Faculty of Law and the Inglis Clark Centre for Civil Society.

More about Andrea Durbach

Born and educated in South Africa, Andrea Durbach practised as a political trial lawyer and human rights advocate, representing victims and opponents of apartheid laws. In 1988 she was appointed solicitor to 25 black defendants in a notorious death penalty case in South Africa and later published an account of her experiences in Upington (Allen & Unwin 1999), which was short-listed for the Alan Paton Non-Fiction Award. In 2011, the documentary, "A Common Purpose," which is based on the book, was screened at the Sydney Film Festival, winning the Audience Award for Best Documentary.

After leaving South Africa in 1989, Andrea worked as a solicitor at Freehills in Sydney and in 1991, she joined the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) where she was Head of Legal Practice and founder and co-ordinator of its Public Interest Clearing House (PILCH), becoming Director of PIAC in 1997.

After 13 years at PIAC, Andrea took up a joint appointment as Associate Professor at the University of New South Wales Faculty of Law and Director of UNSW's Australian Human Rights Centre. In mid-2011, Andrea was appointed part-time Deputy Sex Discrimination Commissioner of the Australian Human Rights Commission for the period during which the Sex Discrimination Commissioner conducted the Defence Force Review.

Andrea has held numerous appointments, including part-time commissioner of the NSW Law Reform Commission and part-time judicial member of the Administrative Decisions Tribunal (Legal Services Division). She is a Foundation Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law and is currently a member of the board of the NSW Legal Aid Commission, the editorial board of the Australian Journal of Human Rights and the Advisory Council of Jurists of the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions.

More about A Common Purpose

"A Common Purpose" follows Andrea Durbach as she returns to South Africa to meet her clients from the landmark Upington 25 trial. In 1985, when apartheid was at its most violent, a black policeman was burnt to death and 25 people were convicted of his murder; 14 were sentenced to hang. "A Common Purpose" portrays the legal complexity of a notorious trial that marks South Africa's transition from apartheid to democracy. The story - as told by Durbach, journalist, John Carlin and the accused - reveals one of legal history's biggest death penalty cases and a battle for justice in a country where injustice was entrenched in law.

"A Common Purpose" won the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the 2011 Sydney Film Festival.

A review from "Variety" by Richard Kuipers:

... White South African lawyer and human-rights advocate Andrea Durbach is reunited with the black South Africans whose lives she helped save in "A Common Purpose." This emotionally affecting chronicle of the infamous "Upington 25," trial which lasted from 1985-91, won the audience vote for best documentary at the Sydney Film Festival and represents a career highlight for respected Aussie filmmaker Mitzi Goldman. Pubcasters and fests should take note.

Perfectly summed up as "the pinnacle of perverse apartheid insanity" by John Carlin, a British reporter who covered the story, the Upington case involved 25 people who were convicted of the murder of a black policeman. Due to the appalling "common purpose" law, many of the "guilty" were bystanders or not even at the scene; 14 were sentenced to death. An unassuming yet inspiring figure, Durbach recalls her experiences as a junior lawyer defending her clients against brutal state machinery. More than simply hugs-and-tears reunions, Durbach's meetings with many of the survivors prompt illuminating discussion on the realities of life in contempo South Africa. Archival footage of the trial and surrounding events packs a wallop; technical presentation is simple and effective.


About the Sandy Duncanson Social Justice Fund

Tasmanian lawyer Alexander (Sandy) Duncanson died in June 2010 at the age of 37, after surviving cancer for 16 years. Sandy's family and friends have worked with the UTAS Faculty of Law and the Inglis Clark Centre to establish a fund in his name through the University of Tasmania Foundation.

More than $100,000 has been raised to date for the fund. The initial target was $60,000 to award one bursary each year in perpetuity; the new target is $120,000 to award two bursaries each year.

Donations can still be made here: (under "Gift Purpose" choose Sandy Duncanson Social Justice Bursary).

The aim of the bursary is to provide a University of Tasmania student assistance to advance a social justice initiative, encouraging more of our graduates to pursue their careers with integrity.

UTAS student Laura Sykes has been awarded the Sandy Duncanson Social Justice Fund inaugural bursary. The bursary will assist Laura with her vision to achieve Fairtrade Accreditation for UTAS.


The lecture will be held between 6 - 7.30pm (followed by film screening concluding at 8.30pm)