At the PLN, we are always planning exciting new initiatives about the public law issues that you are passionate about. To find out more about how to get involved with us, have a gander through our events page. Want more info? Email us at

PLN Podcast

Tune into the PLN’s podcast platform on Spotify or RSS: ‘In Conversation with the PLN‘. Our series ‘PLN Rewind‘ showcases all our past events in a more polished form, so that you can listen on the go!

Past Events – 2022

The PLN was thrilled to once again host the Beyond Commercial Careers Event, where we welcomed a panel of speakers to share their experiences of working in non-commercial areas of law. We were joined by four incredible panelists: Zoe Chan (Principal Lawyer of Anika Legal), Bess Smallwood (Community Outreach Lawyer at Fitzroy Legal Service), Heela Arsala (Head of Legal Counsel at Buchan) and Brittni Dienhoff (Climate Lawyer at Environmental Justice Australia). In this discussion our panellists highlighted the difficulties around pursuing a career outside of commercial law and the ways they have navigated them.

The Progressive Law Network was overjoyed to bring back our flagship event: the full-day PLN Conference. The theme for the day was ‘Sustainable Futures in the Law’, where audience members and a variety of lawyers, academics and industry experts combined to reimagine ways that law/lore can be used to forge a more Sustainable Future. 

Across multiple panels and workshops, we heard from Dr Erin O’Donnell, Brodey Hamilton (Gulidjan) and Professor Jeannie Paterson about First Nations’ water justice and data sovereignty, and the ethics of Artificial Intelligence; from Nicky Friedman (head of Pro Bono at Allens) about progressive work within corporate firms; from Gemma Leigh-Dodds, who leads Slater & Gordon’s class actions practice, about the way this tool can achieve collective justice; from Abbey Dalton (Human rights lawyer at the VGSO), Amelia Liapis (Legal Trainee at the OPP) and Associate Professor Brendan Gogarty (Tasmanian Law Reform Institute) about the realities of working in the public sector and on law reform; and finally from Gwenda Cannard we learnt about vicarious trauma and developed strategies to look after our mental health when working in areas of public interest which often involves distressing subjects.

See below for resources elaborating upon themes explored on the day.

Refugee law and policy has become one of the most highly contested issues in Australian political history. The use of mandatory, indefinite detention by successive governments, boat pushback policies and a reliance on offshore resettlement pathways have come under the international scrutiny of UN treaty bodies, NGOs and nation states alike, who have condemned Australia’s approach as inhumane and in contempt of international law. 

We were joined by Malvina Hagedorn (Migration Special Counsel at Russell Kennedy), Hannah Dickinson (Principal Solicitor at the ASRC), and Sajjad Askary (Hazara former refugee, advocate and Monash JD Student) for a discussion of the law and politics behind the refugee experience and the process of seeking asylum in Australia.

This panel discussion explored the intersection between the law and activism. Several prominent speakers shared their experiences harnessing their education for the betterment of society, advice on pursuing a progressive law career, and insight into areas as diverse as climate action, mental health policy and disability services.

We heard from Laura John (Senior Solicitor at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre), Bianca Failla (Co-ordinator at the Youth Disability Advocacy Service) and Leigh Ewbank (Climate Campaigner at Friends of the Earth), along with a surprise guest- one of the PLN’s founders, Legal Aid lawyer Penelope Swales!

Past Events – 2021

The PLN in collaboration with the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law was excited to once again announce the Beyond Commercial Careers Event where we welcomed a panel of speakers to share their experiences of working in non-commercial areas of law. Pursuing a public interest law career can be very rewarding yet difficult. At this event we aimed to highlight the difficulties around pursuing a career outside of commercial law and ways to navigate this. So, if you’re a law student or lawyer wondering what lies beyond the corporate law path please listen to the recording! We welcomed Tanya Sinha, Joseph Kelly, Liam Elphick and Fleur Ramsay. This event was moderated by Maria O’Sullivan.

The Progressive Law Network and MSA Disabilities & Carers collaborated to discuss recent themes in disability activism and protecting the rights of disabled people.

The Monash Progressive Law Network Committee ran elections for our 2022. Working with Monash clubs and societies, especially the PLN, is great experience for teamwork and leadership, and is incredible for resume-building. The PLN is an extremely passionate, engaged and fun club which works to champion progressive causes at Monash.

In this event, the PLN was joined by distinguished Elders Aunty Prof. Eleanor Bourke and Aunty Geraldine Atkinson to examine the relationship between truth-telling, treaty, Indigenous recognition and self-determination. As central case studies for this discussion, we considered the objectives and processes of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria and the Yoo-rrook Justice Commission, two recently established Indigenous-led bodies tasked with delivering the truth about Victoria’s colonial history and a pathway to treaty in Victoria. Consideration was given to what may be learnt from treaty and truth-telling efforts in Victoria and other jurisdictions for the purpose of best implementing the Uluru Statement from the Heart and a First Nations voice to the Commonwealth Parliament.

The PLN had an insightful discussion surrounding the patriarchy in the political sphere, as we welcome an array of guest speakers to join our conversation. In recent years we have seen discussion of sexism in politics, and the so-called “boys club” that runs parliament. At this event discussed all things patriarchy-in-politics, from the narratives that commonly follow female politicians, to the structural barriers that prevent many women from entering politics in the first place. We were joined by Katrina Lee-Koo, Anjalee De Silva, JaneMaree Maher and Yasmin Poole.

We discussed coercive control. Coercive control refers to patterns of non-physical abuse in relationships. As coercive control is incredibly harmful and unfortunately prevalent, debate has erupted regarding whether law reforms should be instated to protect victims from such insidious forms of abuse. However, such reform suggestions have also proven controversial, with some thinkers finding them useless given existing legal regimes, and others considering them potentially harmful. During this book club, we discussed what laws already exist around Australia to deal with coercive control and non-physical abuse, before turning to suggestions for reform and their potential consequences.

Students from Unimelb and Monash Uni Law School came along for triva across a range of topics including progressive law and pop culture. In conjunction with this event we decided to raise money for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) who do excellent work during lockdowns for Melbourne’s refugee communities. We are asking for a donation to the ASRC as entry to trivia. Please note that this is not compulsory and is on a pay-as-you-feel basis.

We joined forces with MSA Queer for the first of the Progressive Law Network book club series. We had a chat about LGBTQIA+ blood donation policies in Australia. In the 1980s, gay and bisexual men were banned from giving blood, a policy that was a product of fear and stigma at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The total ban became a 12-month celibacy period a few years later, and has recently been shortened to 3 months this year. This means that gay and bisexual men are officially permitted to donate blood in Australia after three months of celibacy. This rule on blood donation also applies to trans people (of all genders) who have engaged in sexual contact with a man in the past three months or another transgender person.

The exercise of judicial power is one of the most important expressions of state authority in the Australian constitutional landscape. Yet, it is also one of the most commonplace. It bears repetition, then, to say that the makeup of the judiciary is of paramount importance to the standard of justice delivered by Australia’s court systems and the cultural expectations they set: not only in the legal profession, but the Australian community more broadly. Despite this fact, it is frequently observed that Australia’s judicial officers do not adequately represent the diversity of our community. To speak to this issue, the PLN was joined by His Honour Judge Pillay of the County Court of Victoria. His Honour examined the effects that a lack of diversity among the judiciary has on the impartiality of its members and the consequences this has for justice, society and individual rights.

The PLN had an evening of networking and topical discussion as we dissect important legal issues with a selection of guest speakers working and researching in public interest law, as well as current academics at Monash University. We were joined by three distinguished speakers – Nyadol Nyuon, Anna Nguyen and Jessie Taylor. Speakers discussed what a career in progressive law looks like, how students can make social impact in their careers and the importance of being a progressive voice in the law.

The Progressive Law Network caught up with our members at our OGM. We had have plenty of food and chats alongside an opportunity to give suggestions on the direction of the club, our events and activities. The President and the Treasurer gave a report, and heard ideas about where the PLN can go in the future and what you’d like to see.

The last 20 years have seen immigration policy become one of the most highly contested issues in Australian political history. The use of mandatory offshore detention by successive governments, often in untenable conditions, and an unwillingness to follow through with obligations at international law which Australia has agreed to fulfil has caused it to come into the rebuke of UN treaty bodies, NGOs and nation states alike. So where to from here? To answer this questions and others, the PLN was joined by one of Australia’s finest legal minds, Julian Burnside AO QC. With a wealth of experience in immigration and public interest litigation, Mr Burnside delved into the issues of greatest contention and the realities of modern refugee administration, whilst also suggesting future directions in immigration policy.

The PLN was back on campus and welcoming all Monash students to our O-week picnic! This was be a chance to find out more about the work we do, how you can get involved and our plans for 2021. It was also be an opportunity to meet other like minded students.

Past Events – 2020

Climate Justice Action Panel

April 1st, 2020

Featuring stellar guest speakers Dr. Michelle Maloney (Earth Laws Alliance), Bronya Lipski (Environmental Justice Australia) and Dr Keely Boom (Climate Justice Australia), the panel was an invigorating reminder to not stay complacent with our activism during these complicated times.

COVID-19 and the Law: Human Rights and Democracy

May 26th, 2020

In this event, we get an inside scoop on what public law experts have to say on what COVID-19 means for human rights, the functioning of democracy and the future of the progressive law movement. We were joined by Tamar Hopkins, George Williams AO and Tim Lo Surdo as Lee Strike was unable to make the event.

Policy Essay Pic

Policy Essay Competition

Due: May 29th 2020

Topic: What is the most important public interest law issue of this new decade? *puts thinking cap on*

Get your voice heard and share with us your thoughts on how an area of public law can promote access to justice and fair policies for all. 

Read the top 5 essays on our blog!

PLN at O-Fest – S2

July 28th 2020

This was an opportunity to hear about what the PLN does and what different opportunities there are to be involved in ‘progressive law’ while at university. Later-year law students shared about different experiences they have had and answer any questions.

We hosted a young lawyer working in refugee and asylum seeker law: Laura Chalk. Laura is a solicitor at the ASRC. Laura shared some insights on their career and offer advice. Laura shared some current challenges facing refugees and asylum seekers in light of COVID19.

R U OK 2020: Mental Health in a Global Pandemic

September 8th 2020

This discussion took a close look at the mental health impacts of COVID-19 and sought to better understand what is being done to mitigate them. Is current mental health policy adequate in today’s environment? What issues must mental health services and policy makers be most aware of in their response to present conditions? What is to be done to ensure mental health services are wide-reaching and effective in Australia going forward?

To tackle these questions, we were joined by Christian Lane co-founder of ‘A Reasonable Standard’, Dr Jessica Dean from Beyond Blue and Stuart Muir Wilson and Michael McGarvie from the Ecological Justice Hub.

PLN x PILN: Black Lives Matter

The recent Black Lives Matter movement and #abolishpolice protests have gained momentum globally in Australia. We are devastated that it once again took the public and tragic deaths of more Black lives, to remind us of how the legal system fails Black people every day. Not enough is being done to enact change in the structures in which racial violence, particularly against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, exist. We want and need to do better.

The Progressive Law Network and Public Interest Law Network brought together panellists (Teela Reid and Douglas Briggs) to discuss the legal implications of the Black Lives Matter movement in Australia, the role of law students and young lawyers, and many other topics relating to the what BLM looks like in Australia.

Take a listen here! Apologies as the beginning was slightly cut off.



Public Interest Careers Mentoring Program

The PLN is excited to launch our inaugural Public Interest Careers Mentoring Program for 2020! We are inviting all law students who are interested in public interest and other non-commercial law pathways to apply.

Mentees will be matched to a mentor on a one-to-one basis. Students will have the opportunity to indicate their preferences as to which field of law they are most interested in.

Virtual ‘Book’ Club

In partnership with the Deakin Law Alternative, the PLN presents our monthly ‘book’ club where we connect via an online forum to discuss and examine progressive law topics with leading experts. Watch this space.

Session 1
Gender Issues and Refugee Law
Emily Singh and Dr Brandy Cochrane
Session 2
Implications of the Pell Judgment
Justin Hanneberry QC
Session 3
The Legality of Baby Markets
Dr Dominique Martin and Dr Britta van Beers


Sexism in the Legal Profession

Sexism is endemic in the legal profession and has been since its inception. This manifests in many way. Patriarchal ideals and structural biases reinforce a culture in which the allegations against Dyson Heydon surfaced.

We discussed this and more with Kathleen Foley (barrister, writer and past Associate to Justice Hayne), Molina Asthana (Vice President of the National Executive of Asian Australian Lawyers Association) and Josh Bornstein (National Head of Maurice Blackburn’s Employment and Industrial Law Department).

Join us!