Julian Burnside: Taking the Law in Stride
To enter a lawyer’s office can be a daunting experience for many people, and especially so when the man sitting behind the huge desk is Julian Burnside AO QC. As a barrister, author and prominent human rights and refugee advocate, he is one of Australia’s most respected lawyers. Julian has a twinkle in his eye and a ready smile; he possesses an enviable quality of making others feel welcome. He is willing to listen to anything they say.
People want to be listened to, they want to be acknowledged as people, acknowledged as part of the community they’re in. --- Julian Burnside
Somehow this remarkable man manages to keep his life in balance while spending his days working to help those who have been traumatised by circumstances beyond their control – refugees and asylum seekers, and then having to battle with less than humane government policies.
“You learn to handle what it is because you have to - this is part of my life,” he explains.
Julian’s website greets its visitors with a quote by James Thurber, “All men should strive to learn before they die, what they are running from, and to, and why.” He thinks these words are a useful reminder to politicians who need to cast away their fear and instead, extend a helping hand to fellow humans in dire need.
Beyond the office and law courts, Julian seeks relaxation in classical music and reading, in particular poetry, philosophy and history. He finds joy in making sculptures out of objects he collects during his walks along the quiet coastline near his beach house in South Gippsland.
Julian the schoolboy was a brilliant student and at the end of his final year at Melbourne Grammar was accepted by five universities. He laughs heartily when asked why he chose a career in law. It was an accident he explained. He simply chose to follow a friend in his decision because he thought it nice to have a companion at university. Together they enrolled in law at Monash University. Julian also earned a degree in economics, initially planning to become a management consultant.
His path took a sharp turn when he travelled to New Zealand with the Monash University Intervarsity Mooting team. He won the prize as the best individual speaker and, the Chief Justice of New Zealand who presided over the final moot at the prize giving drinks session suggested he ‘go to the bar’. In that instant Julian said he decided to become a barrister. “So that was my career planning,” he laughs.
After graduating from university, Julian proceeded to forge a successful career in litigation, dealing primarily with high-end clients. However, in 2001 his path in life was about to change dramatically with the Tampa incident. The Norwegian cargo ship MV was refused entry to Australian waters after rescuing 438 people, mostly Afghan asylum seekers, from a distressed Indonesian fishing boat. It highlighted no ‘boat people’ accepted in Australia and was the start of offshore processing for asylum seekers. This was the catalyst for Julian to become an outspoken advocate for human rights and refugees.
Julian’s work has not made his life any easier. He received hundreds of hate emails over time. only emboldened by this obstacle, Julian took time from his busy schedule to provide meaningful explanations for his work. The results he says, were astonishing. Many responded with gratitude for his attention, thanking him. Julian has come to the conclusion that many people nowadays generally feel neglected. This he says is reflected in the recent elections in America. The Trump campaign appealed to the masses of people who felt unnoticed, overlooked and estranged.
Julian doubts he will see an acceptable resolution for asylum seekers in his lifetime but says, “Whether I am optimistic or not, the simple fact is you don’t give up on it.”
When asked about his most critical concern for the future, Julian feels it is the lack of acknowledgment and preparation for climate change. Following the Industrial Revolution and advances in technology, the environment and atmosphere have become more and more polluted to the detriment of all living beings including humanity.
“I am really, really worried that we seem to have forgotten altogether the danger of what we are doing to the planet.”
There is some talk, but little action. To quote Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “Thus conscience doth make cowards of us all… And lose the name of action.”
1972年朱利安獲得經濟學位， 1973年得到法律學位。大學畢業前夕，在前往新西蘭參加國際模擬法庭訴訟辯論中，朱利安贏得最佳演說者的頭銜，並與新西蘭首席法官Sir Richard Wild有了一面之緣，大法官對他說：「當律師去吧！」
1998年，澳洲海洋工會與當時最具有影響力的商業集團 Patrick Corporation 爆發勞資衝突。這起案件當時被視為澳洲最嚴重、時間最長的勞資關係爭議。在最後的判決中，最高法庭幾乎是傾向 Patrick 集團。朱利安說：「一直到今天，我對這個案件都是記憶猶新」。他發現，代表低層的工會應當獲得理性和公平的生存環境。
2001年，澳洲發生一起轟動社會的難民事件，一艘載有438 位阿富汗難民的MV Tampa 挪威貨船在澳外海被拒絕入境，澳洲政府的決定震驚挪威並受到聯合國和多國的指責。聯邦政府隨即向國會遞交「邊境保護修改草案」。在提供醫療援助以及食物後，便將全數難民送往澳洲難民營- 瑙魯。
2008年，朱利安參與了幾項代表澳洲原住民與聯邦政府之間的糾紛案。其中最著名的是澳洲原住民「被偷走的一代人」協會會員Bruce Trevorrow 的案件，當時的 Trevorrow指控南澳政府，在他幼年時期，政府將他從親生父母身邊帶走，給他整個家庭帶來了難以磨滅的傷痛。結果，朱利安為首的律師團為「被偷走的一代人」贏得了澳洲史上的首次勝利，澳洲政府被判賠償Trevorrow 55萬澳元，外加 22.5 萬澳元利息。
Julian Burnside has received many awards including the Australian Peace Prize, the Sydney Peace Prize and the Order of Australia "for service as a human rights advocate, particularly for refugees and asylum seekers, to the arts as a patron and fundraiser, and to the law”.
With his wife Kate, he set up Spare Rooms for Refugees and Spare Lawyers for Refugees, programs that provide free accommodation and legal representation for refugees in Australia.