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36th Annual Congress of the International Association of Young Lawyers, Sydney, Monday 21 September 1998: address on the occasion of the opening.

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This is the first time that the Annual Congress of the International Association of Young Lawyers has been held in the Asia-Pacific region. Indeed it is only the second time that it has been held in the Southern Hemisphere. It is an important event for the young lawyers of this country and of the world. Let me, as Governor-General of Australia, tell all of you who are participating in the Congress that we are delighted that you have decided to gather here in our country’s oldest and largest city. Let me also, without mentioning individual names, congratulate and thank all those who initially succeeded in having Sydney designated as the host city for the Congress and all those who have, in the intervening period, worked so hard to bring it to the stage where it is now commencing.

The International Association of Young Lawyers is, I understand, the only international organisation exclusively directed to lawyers under the age of 45. Since its foundation 36 years ago, it has progressively grown until it now has members in more than 70 countries and can claim to represent young lawyers from all over the world.

I noticed, when reading about the Association, that one of the declarations of the Athens congress in 1966 pointed to the tendency of young lawyers of every country to “stand together ... to defend those principles which are common and which they consider to be indivisible from the notion of justice and law”.

The defence of those principles is an aspiration of all conscientious lawyers, whether young or old. I might add that it remains an aspiration of even an ex-lawyer such as myself. Indeed, it is essential to the maintenance of 2 of the basic aims of any acceptable system of contemporary democratic government. The first of those aims is that the rights and obligations of the individual fall to be determined by ascertainable rules or principles rather than by arbitrary decision. The second is that those rules or principles satisfy minimum standards of justice, equality and respect for human dignity. It is, however, particularly important that the young lawyers of the world, who are, or are in the process of, assuming responsibility for the future, stand united in their determination to advance these aims and in their recognition of underlying principles and standards of equality before the law, justice, tolerance and mutual respect. Those principles and


standards transcend national, racial, religious or cultural differences. In that regard, it may well be that those attending this Congress may find some encouragement in what we in Australia call our multiculturalism.

Europeans first came to live in this country in 1788. Apart from the Aborigines, who trace their local origins back for perhaps 60 millennia, we Australians are all immigrants or descended from immigrants who have come here after that time. We immediately or more distantly came from all the regions of the world. As a people, we embrace all of the world’s main religions, cultures and races and display the colours of the human spectrum. We take pride in our diversity and in the fact that our histories and ancestries effectively encompass the stories and the divisions of all mankind. Yet we are truly united as one people. The approach, the ethos and the conviction which make that possible, and which have long enjoyed general support in the Australian Parliament, are what we commonly call our multiculturalism.

That multiculturalism is not only a policy of government. It is a philosophy of living and a way of life. Its essence lies in mutual respect and tolerance. Within the limits that are consistent with the overriding loyalties and obligations of Australian citizenship and with all the rights and duties under valid and reasonable Australian laws, our citizens are entitled to demand, from their fellow Australians, tolerance and respect for themselves, their beliefs and their lawful practices and their different national, racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds. That means, of course, that we expect each Australian to live peacefully with his or her fellow citizens without pursuing old hatreds and old conflicts which have their origins in other places. Our multiculturalism is a policy and philosophy that has worked well for us. Indeed, it has made possible and it still sustains our national unity.

A similar policy of mutual tolerance and respect clearly inspires your Association. And it is essential that that be so if your Association is to be a means by which young lawyers can defend the basic notions of justice and law to which you all subscribe. I am confident that this Conference in Sydney will reinforce those aspirations and, in the words of that Athens Declaration, your determination to demonstrate your solidarity whenever those principles are threatened. I am also confident that the Conference will enrich your knowledge of the world’s different legal systems and contribute to those bonds of mutual understanding that are so essential to humanity and its future.

Finally, I offer my warm personal good wishes to all attending the Conference. I hope that the professional benefits which you will obtain from the Conference are matched by the personal and social benefits as you renew old friendships and make new friends among your professional colleagues from other countries. To those of you who have

come from overseas, I say, on behalf of all Australians, welcome. I hope that your visit to our country is a happy one. I hope that you come to know as much of our country as is possible in the period you are here. And I hope that, when the time comes to leave us and to return to your own homes, you carry with you fond memories of Australia and Australians.

I understand that there are some of our visitors who have difficulty in understanding English. I would, in conclusion, like to address a few words to them in my rather fractured French.



And now, with great pleasure, I declare the 36th Annual Congress of the International Association of Young Lawyers to be officially open.