In Conversation with Stephen Lawrence

Author of ‘An Opportunity for Progressive Law Reform’

Interview and article by Alice Stafford

Stephen Lawrence is the Deputy Mayor of the Dubbo region and a barrister specialising in public law. Prior to his current roles, Stephen worked with the Aboriginal Legal Service in Western NSW as well as on justice work in Afghanistan and the Solomon Islands. Stephen also features on monthly legal podcast The Wigs.

Stephen’s article, An Opportunity for Progressive Law Reform, is featured in the 2020 edition of the Evatt Journal.

How does your professional life align with the work of the Evatt Foundation?

I have always sought work that I find fulfilling. That has meant that a large part of my career has been dedicated to working on access to justice and human rights issues in a very practical sense. I’ve been involved in criminal defence work in the Solomon Islands, in Afghanistan, in Western New South Wales (NSW) and more broadly across Australia. I am also currently the Deputy Mayor of the Dubbo region where I am fighting for progressive policy outcomes at the local government level.

What are the key takeaways from your article?

We need to look for the positives in the negatives coming out of the pandemic. Technological improvements to the court system and the subsequent increase in access to justice marks a major positive. For example, I recently appeared in the Court of Appeal in relation to the Black Lives Matter protest from Dubbo. Without technological improvements in the way court proceedings can take place, that appeal may not have gone ahead.

The policy response to the pandemic has also shone light on very real human rights issues. I think the time is right for the progressive left to have a renewed push for a fundamental human rights framework in NSW and nationally.