Year 11 Legal Studies students had an incredible learning opportunity today, spending the afternoon with one of Australia’s leading and most respected Human Rights lawyers, Julian McMahon. As well as being the president of the Capital Punishment Justice Project, Mr McMahon was named Victorian Australian of the Year in 2016, and in 2017 was made a Companion of the Order of Australia, Australia’s highest civilian honour.

At the heart of Mr McMahon’s presentation was an examination of the rule of law and what can happen when it’s ignored; with examples from countries such as Bali, the Philippines and Pakistan.

“Understanding the rule of law is one of the most important things you will ever do,” he explained to the students. “When it’s ignored, you get mayhem.”

He cited examples such as the Holocaust, the death penalty in Indonesia, the treatment of refugees and Aboriginal people in custody in Australia, and the fact that there are now more people in slavery than in any other time in human history.

He also spoke about his most famous case, defending the Bali Nine.

“The reason I come to places like your college and speak about human rights is because one day people like me won’t be around to do this work,” Mr McMahon said. “It will be your generation trying to solve these problems and you need to understand the principles behind rule of law.”

Students had lots of questions, particularly about the death penalty and what it’s like to work with clients on death row.