Saturday, May 23, 2009

Julian Burnside

I think Julian Burnside is a lawyer.

I'm guessing I got his name off the list of Australia's Living Treasures.

Well, let me go talk to Lord Wiki so I can see if I'm right or not.

Okay. I'm right. He's into law. He's a barrister and human rights advocate....a lot like yesterday's Frank Brennan.

Like Brennan, Burnside is strongly against mandatory detention of asylum seekers.

Burnside was born on 9 June 1949. That would make him a Gemini. I know this because his birthday is two days after my niece's.

Birthday website time

Burnside is an 11 in numerology.

This website says this about the 11: you have the potential to be a source of inspiration and illumination for people. You possess an inordinate amount of energy and intuition. There is so much going on in your psyche that you are often misunderstood early in life, making you shy and withdrawn. You have far more potential than you know.

That sounds like an interesting person. It's not all sunshine and lollipops though. The website also says You may often be frustrated, largely because you have extremely high expectations of yourself. But these expectations can be unrealistic, and can prevent you from accomplishing anything. You can be very impractical, envisioning a skyscraper when all that was necessary was a two-story house.

I'm trying to think if I know of anyone like that.....

Little Julian was born in Melbourne. His daddy was a Urologist.

Burnside went to Melbourne Grammar School. A lot of famous people went to this school, including: Barrie Humphries, Malcolm Fraser, John Brumby, and Alfred Deakin.

He went to Monash University. I think that's where Peter Carey went for a short time.

Burnside studied law and economics. He wanted to be a manager consultant. Tim did this for awhile. I think. What it is basically is going into a company temporarily and helping them improve things.

While at school, Burnside competed in mock court. His performance was very impressive. In a New Zealand contest, he was named best speaker. Burnside had a conversation with the Chief Justice of New Zealand, and was inspired to become a barrister.

Burnside finished his degrees in 1973. By 1976, he was admitted as a barrister by the Supreme Court of Victoria.

He was admitted to the Queen's counsel in 1989. I have no idea what that means, but I kind of have deja vu here. I feel I've looked it up before. Oh well, I'll do it again.

Lord Wiki says these days, Queen's Counsel is more often called Senior Counsel.

I don't really understand it. Basically though, it's an honor. Isn't that enough information? Or am I being lazy today?

Burnside works mostly with commercial law. That's pretty much law that deals with businesses.

He has worked with many wealthy clients.

You know who this guy reminds me of?

Eli Stone!

For those of you who never were blessed with watching the show; Eli Stone was about a superficial ambitious lawyer who worked for a greedy law firm. He starts having these spiritual visions and transforms into a lawyer who wants to save the world.

I'm not sure if Burnside had hallucinations that were messages from god. But it does seem like he made some type of transformation.

At first he was a commercial lawyer...representing the rich and powerful. Then in the late 1990's he started doing more humanitarian stuff. He began to take on more pro bono cases.

It seems it might have started with the big waterfront dispute of 1998. Instead of taking the side of the corporation, he fought for the side of the union. Ah, interesting..... I wonder why he did that.

Burnside worked against the Australian Government in the Tampa Case. He and his wife set up a program called Spare Rooms. It provides free legal representation and free accommodations for refugees. That's awesome. I wonder which refugees get to use it though. I mean since they're stuck in detention. Are some refugees not in detention? Does Burnside pull them out somehow?

Burnside is awesome. He's like a superhero.

You know who else he reminds me of. Batman! He does all this rich people stuff. And Lord Wiki says he still does commercial law. Then at the same time, he does this heroic stuff.

Burnside also works to help Indigenous Australians. He worked on a case for a victim of the stolen generation, and they won. They sued the South Australian Government and won 500,000 dollars.

In 2004 Burnside became a living treasure. Yeah, I think that's how he ended up on my list. And I am GREATLY honored to have him there.

He wrote a children's book. It's called Matilda and the Dragon. That's a very cute title.

All right. I'm done with Lord Wiki.

I am NOT done with Julian Burnside.

Where should we go next?

He has his own website. That might be a nice place to go.

He has a quote from James Thurber on his site. It says, All men should strive to learn before they die, what they are running from, and to, and why.

Although it's stated in a sexist way, it's a good question. I'll have to think about that one. What am I running from? What am I running towards?

Burnside's website is a little confusing to me. It's a bit overwhelming.

Here's a speech he did regarding Australia needing a bill of rights.

All right. This is going to be a bit challenging. For some reason, all the pages on his website have the same address. So....I can't really link you up to the exact thing I'm looking at. I guess you're on your own if you want to see it. I'm not sure if the website is at fault, or if my computer is messing up somehow.

In the 2020 summit in Canberra (I think the one which Clate Blanchett went to right after giving birth) the idea of the bill of rights was brought up. Many people opposed it.

Burnside thinks people oppose the bill of rights because they imagine a US type Bill of Rights things. What? You guys don't all want the right to bear arms?

 Some of our laws are good though. I think? I like the freedom of speech one.

Burnside says, Modern Bills of Right do not concern themselves with the right to bear arms or the quartering of soldiers. They are concerned instead with the sort of rights recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: equality before the law, the right to life, protection from torture and cruel inhuman or degrading treatment, freedom from forced work, freedom of movement, privacy and reputation, freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief; freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and freedom of association, protection of families and children, humane treatment when deprived of liberty, and so on.

I could stand behind something like that.

Burnside really seems negative towards our Bill of Rights. Are they that bad? I do think they need an update--a major one.

Burnside says something very interesting here: Within the scope of its legislative competence, Parliament's power is unlimited. The classic example of this is that, if Parliament has power to make laws with respect to children, it could validly pass a law which required all blue-eyed babies to be killed at birth. The law, although terrible, would be valid. One response to this is that a democratic system allows that government to be thrown out at the next election. This is not much comfort for the blue-eyed babies born in the meantime. And even this democratic correction may not be enough: if blue-eyed people are an unpopular minority, the majority may prefer to return the government to power. The Nuremberg laws of Germany in the 1930s were horrifying, but were constitutionally valid laws which attracted the support of many Germans.

That's a scary thought. I never thought of it that way. I think that's why Burnside wants this bill of rights thing. He believes the bill of rights would protect Australians in case Parliament goes a bit nuts.

The blue eyed baby thing might seem pretty silly. But Parliament can and has created laws that are very unfair. One of them is the fact that innocent asylum seekers can be held in detention for the rest of their life.

Now if detention was held at a luxury resort, it might not be so bad. But the way Burnside describes Woomera, a hostel might be seen as luxury in comparison. Reports from 2001 say there were three working toilets for 1500 people. Holy shit!

Oh, I love what Burnsides says here. He first explains that one of the arguments against the bill of rights is it will protect unpopular minorities. He responds: At one level, the complaint is accurate. In Australia today, the people whose human rights are at risk are not members of the comfortable majority, but members of minority groups who are typically powerless and often unpopular and almost always politically irrelevant. Whilst, in terms, a Bill of Rights protects the rights of all, its primary use is to protect the rights of the weak because the strong are already safe.

If that's not enough....Burnside then gets even more awesome!

The criticism is all the more surprising when you consider that many of those who advance it proclaim themselves to be devout Christians. I had thought, although I haven’t checked recently, that much of Christ’s teaching was concerned with the protection of the weak, the unpopular, the despised and the oppressed. It seems a curious thing then that practising Christians should object to a law which achieves that result.

Now I see why Burnside won all those mock court things. This guy is amazing. If I believed in such things, I'd believe he himself is the second coming of Christ. And he would be a god that I could totally stand behind.

I've been a bit sad that Eli Stone was canceled. But who needs a fictional character when we've got the real thing here?

Burnside talks about the argument that a bill of rights doesn't work. He agrees this can happen...especially when you have an evil president who finds ways to work around the laws. I won't mention any names....

Okay, never mind. I will.

He talks about Bush and Guantanamo Bay--the fact that putting it in Cuba helped Bush avoid some of the laws. But Burnside argues, No Constitution, no Bill of Rights, no statute, no other document, can protect rights unless the rule of law is strong. If the political opposition is weak or absent, if the media are cowed or complacent, if the courts are not fearlessly independent, the promises contained on bits of paper will achieve nothing. That is not our problem in Australia.

If that's not a problem in Australia, why do we have that problem in America? What has gone wrong with us?

I guess it's sort of what Al Gore talked about in his book The Assault on Reason. But I forgot most of what the book said.

I hope Obama can stop the evil. I have to admit though that I was a bit disturbed with him wanting to hide the torture photos. For a brief moment, I became a bit paranoid. I started thinking what if all this time he was on Bush's team. I thought maybe he faked being a democrat so all the disillusioned people would vote for him.

I understand his fear that the photos will create more hatred towards America. But you just can't work that way. It's like a child saying to his parent. Don't come upstairs. I don't want you to come upstairs. If you see what I did, you'll be mad at me! Okay well yeah, but the parent isn't going to turn around and say Okay. I won't see it. I don't want to be mad. Everything's okay.

All right. I'm not going to stay on his website any longer. The web address thing bothers me. Even links to other websites have the same address. I can't work that way.

Yeah. I'm anal.

This Forbes website includes a photo of Burnside. It says he houses refugees in his own Melbourne Mansion. He also buys paintings from unknown artists so they can make money.

I love this guy.

Why can't all rich people be like him?

The sad thing is though I'm cynical. A part of me thinking....okay, he's this great guy who does great things for strangers. But maybe he beats his wife. Maybe he ignores his children. I don't know.

I'm not sure if Burnside has children though. I haven't seen it mentioned yet.

Here's a website for the Spare Room thing. The link system here is as annoying as the other website. But it does give valuable information on how people can help the asylum seekers. They can open up their homes to them; if they have the room. If not that, they can write letters to people in detention centers, or visit the detention centers.

There's a PDF file that you can download which responds to myths about asylum seekers.

Some of these myths are:

1. Boat people are queue jumpers.

Nope. Not true.

2. Asylum Seekers are illegal.

Nope. Not true.

3. Australia already takes too many refugees.

I won't say that's not true because it's a bit subjective. It all depends on what someone's definition of too many is.

The PDF thing has some comparisons though.  Britain has one for every 530 people. Australia has one for every 1583 people.

I wonder what the United States has. Well, I'm too lazy to do a lot of searching, but this website has various immigrant information for America.

4. We're being swamped by hoards of boat people.

No, not really. But again, it's a matter of perspective.

5. They're not real refugees anyway.

Wrong. Well, 84% wrong. I guess that means sixteen percent are not real refugees.

I'm looking at Google News now. Burnside is involved with some drug thing; something called Vioxx. Have any of you heard of this case?

I'm trying to figure out if Burnside is on the good side or bad side. I SHOULD say my side or the other side. I don't know much about any of this, but I'm already pretty sure I have a side.

It seems to be about drug companies pushing doctors to push drugs to patients.

I hate that.

I really do.

This article says, The Federal Court was told the company aimed to identify 100 patients of each targeted general practitioner who were not taking Vioxx and could be recommended to take up the drug for their condition.

It seems there were risks to the drugs, but they were downplayed.

Recently in my eating disorder research adventures, I found information about chemical issues in the brains of people with eating disorders. The website I consulted was good though and stressed that there are many other factors that contribute to the problem. They didn't take on that dreadful message of oh just pop a few pills and you'll be happily eating like a normal person. Is it SO much more complicated than that.

Anyway, people with eating disorders seem to have issues with Serotonin. I usually stay far away from even suggestions of psychiatric drugs, but I decided to have an open mind. I looked up some of the drugs given to people who have ED. I looked at the list of side effects and some of them are worse than having the damn eating disorder! Sometimes these drugs might be needed. But I really think they should be a last resort.

Again though, the website (which has become sort of my bible lately) stresses other types of treatment....more emotional therapy. I haven't gotten ANY treatment. I'm not sure if that's okay or not. I didn't even really consider getting treatment because I PHYSICALLY got over the problem on my own. A lot of the websites I read push the idea that you must have treatment to recover. But I did find a study that looked at people who recovered without professional intervention. The thing they did have in common is they all had someone standing behind them....helping them. I never had that. Most members of my family didn't believe I had a problem. I tried talking to them about it.  They ignored it and denied it.

I've realized recently it's not over. The eating problems ended but all the emotional problems remained. In John Marsden's book, So Much To Tell You the main character mentions Anorexia of Speech. I realize now what I did last year. I replaced excessive limiting of my food intake with excessive limiting of what I said to people. It was another way to feel in control. It was another way to feel protected and guarded.

But NOW I'm dealing with stuff by blabbing on and on about it in my blog.

I HAVE thought of professional therapy, but I doubt I'll do that. It's a lot of money. And no that's not a good excuse. If I knew it would work, I'd definitely do it. But I know it doesn't have a 100% success rate. I know of people with eating disorders who have been through extensive therapy. They're still screwed up; probably more so than me.

I think in the end I have to work it out on my own. Writing about it helps. Doing the research helps.  And I have some friends that let me talk about my problems. I think that's better than any therapist I can find. The thing is....I couldn't deal with a one-sided relationship where I talk about my problems and someone just listens. I like a back and forth kind of thing. I like a relationship where we both share our problems, and we both listen to each other.

Should I shut up now?


Back to Burnside.

I THINK he's on the good side; fighting the people who are suing the bad drug people.

See though. This is why I never fully trust the medical community. I mentioned this to my dad recently and he made some remark about me putting my trust in alternative medicine. That's so not true though. I don't fully trust EITHER of them. I listen to what both of them say with a grain of salt.

I'm SO rambling here.

Maybe I SHOULD take a that stops excessive writing.

I worry that I'm annoying you guys. But see that's one of the problems I have to overcome....worrying about what other people think. This is my blog. I can talk about whatever I damn well please. If I wanted to talk about scary purple dinosaurs that would be my right.

Let's look at Twitter. Is anyone mentioned my new hero? Yes. Apparently he's going to be talking at some editors conference in South Australia. Cool! It looks enlightening. Natasha Stott Despoja is going to be there too.

Anyway, I'm going to go play a game with Jack before I'm labeled a neglectful parent.

I'm back. The sentence above was supposed to be the conclusion. I wrote it hours ago. But I was talking with my sister about Burnside. She asked me why he had made that Eli Stone transformation, and I realized I never found out. I feel I've missed something important here.

I'm not sure if I can find the answer, but I shall at least try.

Here's an interview on ABC. Maybe it will reveal something.

What I told my sister is that I think it had something to do with the waterfront dispute. This might confirm that. When asked about it Burnside says, It sort of shook me to the foundations.

Did something in that case change his viewpoint?

The interviewer says, Julian Burnside began as a blue blood corporate barrister, revelling in the intellectual cut and thrust of the courts. Yet almost by accident he developed a moral purpose, pouring his talents into human rights cases and the arts.

It seems Lord Wiki might have lied about Burnside's daddy being a Urologist. He was a neurological surgeon. Although maybe he did both?

He DOES have a daughter. That's who he wrote the children's book for.

Burnside's first marriage broke up, mostly because of his work schedule.

Okay. Here we go! I found it.

Burnside says, The MUA case was a turning point for me because until then, I had been basically apolitical. But I was shocked to discover through the case because it was very plain that the Government and Patrick's had been up to their eyes in a conspiracy to break the law. I never imagined that governments would do things like that. So, it shook me to the foundations.

I don't know if this is a coincidence or one inspired the other, but the interviewer asks a question that is very similar to the Thurber quote on Burnside's website.

The interviewer says In life, we move towards some things and away from other things over time. What do you feel you're drawn more towards and what are you moving away from?

Burnside says, Um... Well, I do like red wine. And I love making sculpture out of found objects and I love writing, I love reading, I love my job. I'm not attracted to hypocrisy and cant, dishonesty, laziness, politicians and that stuff. So, I'm going away from them as far as I can.

I still need to think about that question....

What do I want to move towards? What do I want to move away from?

Let's see.....

Okay. Here it is.

I want to move towards people who make me feel accepted; the type of people who don't make me feel I need to hide parts of myself. I want to move towards people who care about others. I want to move away from....well, I guess I want to move away from the people who are not like the ones I want to move towards. Does that make sense?


  1. Dina, for mine, this is one of your best posts. I didn't know anything about this guy, and now he's my hero too.

    Also, with respect to therapy - I've only gone down that path once, with a minor issue, and even then it took me a couple of counsellors to find the right one. But when I did, it was so worth it. My other half has had a harder time of it, he has bigger issues and so it is harder to find the right person. But I reckon, if nothing else, if you can afford it, it will help reinforce the right decisions you have made and point you in the direction of some other helpful things. I doubt it will magically make you better, but I also doubt it would be a watse of money.

    Just my 2 cents.

    And thanks, I loved this post.

  2. Ariane,

    Thank you so much. This is probably one of my favorite posts as well. I really like Burnside. He's definitely a hero...and we NEED heroes. At least I think so.

    As for therapy, I'm still considering it. I have done it before--in my teen years. It was short-term and didn't help much.

    This summer I decided to do therapy and emailed two therapists. They emailed me back and said they were available. I emailed them back again and then both never wrote back.

    I guess I took that as a wasn't meant to be.

    More than that though, I felt rejected at a time I really needed NOT to be rejected.

    It might have been innocent on their part. But it made me realize a therapist is one more person to reject me or say something damaging. They're not perfect. On this eating disorder website, there's this page that lists horrible things medical professionals have said to people with eating disorders. It's scary.

    I think the other thing I fear is the therapist will judge us for some of our parenting choices...such as homeschooling. I know some psychologists are against it. I know that's probably a foolish fear because homeschooling is becoming more accepted these days.

    Who knows....

    Do you guys get the show In-Treatment there? If there was a therapist like that, I'd go in a heartbeat!

  3. No, we don't get that show.

    I have a major headstart with therapists because I have primary care doctor who makes it her business to keep a long list of specialists of all sorts, as well as a good idea of which ones would suit which patients. She asks all her patients what they thought of every specialist she sends them to.

    But I can see your reluctance to try someone who might actually make things worse. It's really awful that there are people so bad out there that you have to risk harm to get decent help. It's a shame that website doesn't have some recommended people.

    Perhaps you'll know the time is right when you get a pointer to someone you can trust. Good luck with finding whatever style of help works the best for you.

  4. Ariane,

    I think the website lists people you can see, but I'm not sure if they're recommended or simply people who submitted their names.

    I like what you say about the time being right. One day when it's meant to be...maybe I'll find the right person.