+Justice Festival

Law + Justice Festival Hope

Introducing the +Justice Festival

The Faculty has always had a commitment to teaching law in its social context and to engaging the contemporary challenges of our time. That means that we aim to deliver a well-rounded education beyond lectures, seminars and tutorials. As students of law and criminology, conversations about politics and society are crucial to everyday education and to building community on campus.

How can the Faculty of Law & Justice create space for these conversations? By launching the inaugural +Justice Festival!

Starting in 2023, we will select an annual theme for the Festival and then invite suggestions from staff and students about art and literature – all kinds of books and films, poems and artworks, live performances and exhibitions – that speak to the theme.

The idea behind the +Justice Festival is to get us all thinking broadly about how cultural texts – comedy, music, poems, artworks, TV shows, podcasts, dance – connect to both the +Justice theme and to studying law and criminology. We want to generate intellectual connections amongst students and between students and staff.

The Festival is not an extra assignment! There are definitely no final exams or class participation marks up for grabs! The Festival is an invitation to each and every student to hold next-level conversations, to listen, to think, to talk, and to reflect.

In 2023 we are organising events that will bring us all together, face to face and on campus, to discuss two major contemporary issues: the referendum on a First Nations Voice to parliament; and the politics of climate change.

One of the great things about intellectual curiosity is that we can interrogate ideas from multiple perspectives. It is in this spirit that we invite you to join us in a year-long conversation around the inaugural theme of: Hope. Below you will find a list of cultural texts suggested by your teachers, by professional and technical staff in the Faculty, and by your student peers that each, in some way, respond to this year’s theme of hope. To make your own suggestion for the webpage and to continue the conversation, please email plusjustice@unsw.edu.au and be sure to include your name, your suggested text, and a brief explanation of how your suggested text engages with the theme of hope.

Texts on Hope


  • Suggested by: Asako Clonaris

    The narrator, Klara, is an "Artificial Friend" - a humanoid AI being that is designed to accompany children and adolescents as they come of age, in a semi-dystopic near future. These AFs are programmed with a certain un-nuanced blue-sky hopefulness, as they navigate the world through sustenance from the sun. As a whole the book tackles questions around bodily autonomy, ethics, and justice, but is ultimately about human connection and love.

  • Suggested by: Prue Vines

    Eating someone for the purpose of saving your own life seems to me to be very hopeful. The case of Dudley and Stephens also raises the legal  and moral question of whether necessity can be a defence for murder. There is also the tension between the custom of the sea  which appeared to condone cannibalism in such circumstances, and the common law which ignored cannibalism but was concerned about murder.

  • Suggested by: Susanne Lloyd-Jones

    The Anthropocene Reviewed is a collection of reflective essays by American writer, John Green. The essays were developed from his podcast of the same name. The essays broadly consider the impact of humans on the earth from Green's unique perspective. His essays offer quirky insights into culture and society, and deal with some serious issues around mental illness, the environment, corporate greed, and the pandemic - to name but a few - there are many more. Green 'reviews' the subject of his essay and gives it a star rating out of five, in the same way products, services and everything in between are rated on the internet with the 5 star scale. Green explains why he decides to use the '5 star rating'. He references Amazon's use of it to rate books. He notes the five star rating is everywhere - applied to books, films, medication, even the bench Green's lovers sit on in the film adaptation of his book, The Fault in our Stars. Yet, he notes, while it is easy for an AI to understand 5 star ratings, words and text are not as easily processed and filtered. Green gives us memoir (words and text) but also a rated review (a nod to how millions make their choices, and reduce sublime, beautiful, unique, painful, mundane experiences to a score out of 5). 

    Overwhelmingly, the essays are about hope - to keep going, to value what you have, to be yourself, to stay connected, to look around, to go outside, to be grateful for life. John Green has a lived experience of mental illness. At times it debilitates him, as it does for so many. But in each essay, there is a thread of hope, an insight, or a searing observation that moves your thinking. The connection to law and justice is philosophical and existential. The collection gently invites us to reflect on how we live, as humans, as a species, on earth, and, with humour and subtlety, rates our performance.

  • Suggested by: Andrew Lynch

    A young man with a mental illness is shot dead by a police officer in a country town. That may seem an unlikely genesis for a reflection on hope, but in her pursuit to fully understand what happened and how it might have been prevented, this is what the author achieves. Kate Wild asks searching questions about how people living with mental health issues may experience the messy intersection of policing, the healthcare system, and the law. This is hard stuff, but it is when faced with wicked problems that hope has real work to do. Wild offers no pat solutions nor does she adopt simplistic positions. Instead, the author guides the reader through the full complexity behind the shooting of Elijah Holcombe, holding it up to the light to illuminate its many refractions. These include not only the impact on Elijah’s family, the proceedings of the coronial inquest and contemporary practices in police training, but also Wild’s own experiences and the decisions she has made in choosing to tell Elijah’s story. In seeking to ensure that something be understood from a tragic event, Wild’s dogged commitment to this project over several years is itself profoundly hopeful. As is, ultimately, the book she has produced.

  • Suggested by: Irene Nemes

    Just Mercy emphasizes the importance of active resistance to unfair institutions. Bryan Stevenson describes the racism, corruption, and cruelty that pervade American court systems and lead to the systematic abuse of marginalized communities. Even in the worst of circumstances, there is hope for a better outcome.

  • Suggested by: Hugh Dillon

    This is one of the most fascinating legally-oriented books I've ever read.  It's about his (Jewish) family from Lviv and their connection with Hans Lauterpacht and Raphael Lemkin and how they conceptualised the crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity during the Second World War. It also deals with how Hans Frank, the murderous governor of Poland, was brought to justice and Philippe Sands's intriguing encounter with Franks's son. It is an unputdownable detective story, really. As soon as I finished it I wanted to read it again. It relates to hope because, in the darkest days of the Holocaust and the war, good people were imagining a better, more just world.

  • Suggested by: Carley Bartlett

    This text tells the story of a young man from a fictional island in the South Pacific who finds himself riding an ocean trash vortex towards the coast of Taiwan and a literature professor who is struggling to process the loss of her husband and son. In unlikely circumstances, the two characters meet and come to learn from each other and from those around them. It is a work of speculative fiction and magical realism that touches on themes of love, grief, and environmental and cultural destruction. This book might be sad but it also serves as a beautiful reminder that hope can be found in connection, even in the face of world-changing loss. A review from the late Ursula K Le Guin: "We haven't read anything like this novel. Ever. South America gave us magical realism - what is Taiwan giving us? A new way of telling our new reality, beautiful, entertaining, frightening, preposterous, true. Completely unsentimental but never brutal, Wu Ming-Yi treats human vulnerability and the world's vulnerability with fearless tenderness."

  • Suggested by: Ben Golder

    This beautiful, sad, but ultimately affirming novella is set in 1985 in a rural Irish town as it tracks the rounds of Bill Furlong, a coal and timber merchant, in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Without spoiling the story or the plot - it is about the influence of the Catholic Church and on ways in which people can resist that influence. As the blurb puts it: 'Small Things Like These is an unforgettable story of hope, quiet heroism and tenderness'

  • Suggested by: Daniel Joyce

    This book is a timely and personal exploration of the 'end of the Cold War' and all the attendant hopes and fears involved in that historical moment.  The author is a leading political theorist.  The book is described as follows and has strong connections to the global focus of the Faculty:  'Free is an engrossing memoir of coming of age amid political upheaval. With acute insight and wit, Lea Ypi traces the limits of progress and the burden of the past, illuminating the spaces between ideals and reality, and the hopes and fears of people pulled up by the sweep of history.'

  • Suggested by: Rosalind Dixon and Justine Nolan

    This book is, as its promotional website says, 'a beautiful, intimate and inspiring investigation into how we can find and nurture within ourselves that essential quality of internal happiness - the 'light within' - which will sustain us even through the darkest times'.

    Both Justine and Ros will organise an ocean swim and a discussion of the book for interested students this year. Stay tuned...

Film and TV

  • Suggested by: Lyria Bennett Moses

    The film highlights the capacity of people to stand up for what they believe, to remain sceptical of what 'everyone knows to be true', and to convince others to change their ideas not by berating them for being idiots, but by bringing them on board on their own terms. The idea that such people exist certainly fills me with hope!

  • Suggested by: Angela Smith

    This TV series is profoundly hopeful, and not only for the heartwarming central romance, but for its treatment of young people, diversity, and living joyful lives during adolescent school years. Despite their struggles, the lead characters are depicted as mature, thoughtful, and kind as they wrestle with interpersonal ethical issues related to sexuality, identity, and friendship. 

    The connection to law and justice: this show is such a joyful, hopeful celebration of LGBTIQ+ kids at school - a rebuke to the politics of division that we have seen around the Religious Discrimination Bill and its impact on students, teachers and schools. Also, the role of positive representation and (pop) cultural products in shaping public opinion on contentious issues.  


  • Suggested by: Fleur Johns

    Zhuo and Keyi highlight the ambivalence of hope and optimism, the sense in which it has become almost mandatory to try to propel oneself hopefully forward through life in the face of everything, and the ways in which hope can blur with capitalist/materialist aspiration and acquiescence. They describe their work as documenting an "age of craziness" in China, and pose the question: "Is the new China, so vibrantly optimistic, also a prison of conformity, a ride no one dares to get off? We have no choice but to be insanely excited and scream and shake as we go faster and faster". It seems important to be attentive to these dimensions of hope and the role that law often plays in fostering their reproduction.


  • Suggested by: Christopher McElwain

    Hope gives us the energy to create a better future. Future Crunch's regular collection of good news gives us hope across every field of human endeavour, providing an antidote to despair.  Focussing on our successes, while still acknowledging our failures, shows we humans can make a difference, and this changes our vision for the future.

    For a strong dose of hope, enjoy many years of good news here: https://futurecrun.ch/goodnews.

Upcoming events

9 March | 6.30pm | Roundhouse

Join award-winning author Gaia Vince, for a keynote talk, followed by a conversation with Ben Doherty and Jane McAdam on how we need to find new ways of managing global migration at a far greater scale before it becomes a crisis.

Register now
27 Feburary | 6.30pm | Clancy Auditorium

When Anthony Albanese won the election, he announced that under his leadership there would be a referendum on the Indigenous voice to parliament. It is finally time for our country to have an honest conversation about our collective sovereignty and future. 

Join co-chairs of the Uluru Dialogue, Cobble Cobble woman Megan Davis and Alywarre women Pat Anderson for a conversation about what will be a pivotal moment in our country as we address the truth about our dark history.

Register now

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