+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 – novels, 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

Books and Poems

  • 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...

  • Suggested by: Shohini Sengupta

    “The Nutmeg’s Curse” by Amitav Ghosh is a book about many things – colonialism, Indonesia, the nutmeg, history, international law, the Dutch East India Company, and climate change. However, even as it details how colonialism and trade, particularly in the Banda Islands in Indonesia led to genocide and had a cataclysmic effect on the people and the ecosystem; returns to the idea of hope, of returning to indigenous wisdom, acknowledging past wrongs, and finding a way to sustainably survive in the future. The narrative of hope in the book takes several forms – poetry, stories, reference to mythologies, and shamanic sayings; and traverses legal history, literary texts, and oral history documentation from across the globe, but particularly the subcontinent. This book is a treatise on the politics of climate change – both past and present, the future of humanity and the living ecosystem at large, and hope. 

  • Suggested by: Bronwen Morgan

    Mary Zournazi is our UNSW colleague in the Faculty of Arts, Design and Architecture, whose work explores hope in the context of justice, the way politics falls short of delivering justice, and implicitly the failure of legal orders to secure justice. She has a new book about hope coming out late in 2023 which also touches on what non-human relationality can teach us about hope.

  • Suggested by: Yssy Burton-Clark

    Although some members of my book club had different interpretations, I found the ending of this book one of the most hope-inspiring I’ve ever read. This is a novel by a master writer with a great back catalogue of speculative ecological fiction (Annihilation, Borne) which explores the impact that humans have had on the planet (and the impact the environment has on humans), whether through legal or illegal actions. In possibly his most ‘realistic’ work, set “10 seconds in the future”, VanderMeer questions individual and societal responsibility for the environment and the impact of politicians to the current state of the world.

  • Suggested by: Odelia Tham

    A novel that grapples with student revolutions, colonial resistance, and the use of language and translation as the dominating tool of the British empire. 

    Synopsis: 1828. Robin Swift, orphaned by cholera in Canton, is brought to London by the mysterious Professor Lovell. There, he trains for years in Latin, Ancient Greek, and Chinese, all in preparation for the day he’ll enrol in Oxford University’s prestigious Royal Institute of Translation—also known as Babel. For Robin, Oxford is a utopia dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. But knowledge obeys power, and as a Chinese boy raised in Britain, Robin realizes serving Babel means betraying his motherland. As his studies progress, Robin finds himself caught between Babel and the shadowy Hermes Society, an organization dedicated to stopping imperial expansion. When Britain pursues an unjust war with China over silver and opium, Robin must decide…

    Babel is about colonialism and revolution. Robin questions how he should live, whether he should focus on his own survival while at the heart of the colonial empire or resist. Both come at a personal cost: the weight of denial or the risk of his life. Kuang takes the reader along Robin’s realistic journey of realizing the necessity of resistance and violence to achieve decolonization. This book is most heartbreaking not in the parts related to death, but in the parts about hoping and hoping to one day belong and be valued in a place that does not see him as human—and the realization that it never will. 

  • Suggested by: Declan Lee

    On 4 March 2023, the United States of America had lost one of its most fierce and influential disability activists. She is famously known for her contributions to the signing of s 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which was the first federal civil and human rights protection for people with disabilities. Judy along with the assistance of the Black Panthers and other disability advocates sat in front of a federal building in San Francisco for 25 days, which remains the longest political takeover in US history today. Her story of being disabled and living a world that was inaccessible isn't new but it was one of the most profound. Her unrelenting activism started as a young woman who was denied the right to an education and a career. She set legal precedent on both a domestic and a global stage when she won a lawsuit against the New York City School System for denying her a licence to become a teacher on the grounds that she was a fire hazard due to her disability paving the way for millions of people with disabilities to fight for their rights to education and a job. Her continued advocacy led to the creation of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990 which in turn was inspiration to our own Australian Disability Discrimination Act in 1992.

    Her story is about living in a world where people with disabilities were experiencing exclusion in their everyday lives but her memoir provides hope that one day, people with disabilities will no longer have to fight for what is their basic human rights

  • Suggested by: The Criminology Team

    Synopsis: the whiteness of hope founded on “the fundamental belief in the goodness of the social word one occupies” (at 190). The evidence shows that occupiers will not recognise the humanity of Blackfullas, rendering hope redundant and a distraction and alerting us to the ‘real dangers of “performative illusions”’ (at 191, citing Paul Beatty’s The Sellout). On this telling, hope can not counter the colonial logic of elimination. Hope is “a false sense of respite” (at 197) that crowds out Black ways and Black-centred knowing, doing, and being. Watego observes parallels between offerings of hope and the odious expressions “soothing the pillow of a dying race” of earlier centuries; and speaks of “retiring” hope. She offers a different way forward, that can encompass but is not exclusive to MLK-style “mountain top Blackness” or the Beatty form of “Black is beautiful”.

    Retiring hope is not giving up, but a matter of a turning up each day in truth.

  • Suggested by: The Criminology Team


    The PJP empowers incarcerated writers to tell their stories and has created a network of prison journalists in the United States of America. The journalism organisation empowers people in prison with the tools of journalism to help them to reach an audience through PJP publications and collaborations with legacy media. 

    While there are plenty of stories about hope by PJP writers, I've chosen this collection of 7 connected stories on finding friendship and community in prison because they mirror my own experience. Some of the women I lived in prison with will be my friends forever - they are my community - while others provided temporary comfort and comradery when I needed it the most. Either way, those friends helped me survive my own sentence and ensured I never gave up hope on a life after prison. 

  • Suggested by: The Criminology Team



    Seventy years ago your mother was about to be born. 
    All your courage comes from her, her mother, and 
    all the mothers before her.
    It is these Kweens that you invite onto this map
    you’ve cleansed, hoping they find their way home.

  • Suggested by: The Criminology Team


    Tanganekald, Portuwutj, Meintangk and Bunganditj Professor Irene Watson is University of SA PVC Aboriginal Leadership and Strategy. She has published extensively on Indigenous Peoples, colonialism, and sovereignty.

    In this short piece, Watson argues that the colonial state of Australia already knows what Aboriginal people want. She writes that many have spoken and not been heard when saying they want power back to self-determine lives in connection to the natural world from the beginning of time and to be in a strong sustainable relationship with the natural world. Aboriginal people want deaths, poverty and homelessness to stop. What is needed to survive colonialism and genocide, she argues has been clearly stated in similar terms across the 100s of First Nations who have co-existed in these lands now called Australia for millennia.

  • Suggested by: Melissa Crouch

    In his darkest hour hope became his closest companion.

    ‘Australia’s most unlikely political prisoner . . . is known as a person of deep optimism, bubbling enthusiasm and infectious warmth.’ Melissa Crouch, Sydney Morning Herald

    For 650 days Sean Turnell was held in Myanmar’s terrifying Insein Prison on the trumped-up charge of being a spy. In An Unlikely Prisoner he recounts how an impossibly cheerful professor of economics, whose idea of an uncomfortable confrontation was having to tell a student that their essay was ‘not really that good’, ended up in one of the most notorious prisons in South-East Asia. And how he not only survived his lengthy incarceration, but left with his sense of humour intact, his spirit unbroken and love in his heart.

    'What [Sean Turnell] endured in his 650 days of incarceration is something that no human being should have to endure, yet he has done it with grace and, even in inhumane conditions, with profound humanity.' Prime Minister Anthony Albanese


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: Shohini Sengupta

    “Jago Hua Savera” (or The Day Shall Dawn) by Pakistani filmmaker, AJ Kardar in 1959 was adapted from the Bengali writer, Manik Bandopadhyay's story "Padma nadir Majhi" by the legendary Urdu poet, Faiz Ahmad Faiz. The songs are poignant and a part of the storytelling as well. Set in the British colonial rule in the Indian subcontinent at a time that the British had just partitioned India, and within the specific context of the British government’s auction of fishing rights on the river Padma/Meghna which flows through the Bengal region (then East Pakistan and now Bangladesh), this is a story of a fishing village, and particularly two fishermen. The story revolves largely around their daily lives and the deplorable conditions they are subjected to, and their one dream of saving enough to buy their own fishing boat. However, even within the pathos and the melancholy of their lives, the movie depicts the triumph of hope, of romantic love fought for, and achieved; and of a dream that refuses to die, even within the law and society’s attempts to thwart it.

    Most importantly, this film combines technical and creative talent from three countries – Pakistan (then split into West Pakistan and East Pakistan), India, and the U.K, at a time the region was still reeling from the effects of the partition, and the resultant mass migration and violence. No such collaborative film-making has happened since then. This movie therefore is the ultimate beacon of hope, of the survival of art and storytelling despite the politics of its time. (The movie, with subtitles, is available for free on YouTube).

Podcasts and Music

  • Suggested by: The Criminology Team


    [from the website] Mariame Kaba is an organizer, educator, and curator. Her work focuses on ending violence, dismantling the prison industrial complex, transformative justice, and supporting youth leadership development. She is the founder and director of Project NIA, a grassroots organization with a vision to end youth incarceration.

    [Mariame's view of abolition is] a collective project that embraces people who sense there is a problem with American institutions and are interested in figuring out what to do about it. She explains what she means when she says hope is a discipline, not an emotion or sense of optimism, and how this informs her organizing. Self-care is examined as a community project. 

  • Suggested by: The Criminology Team

    • Electric Fields: From Little Things Big Things Grow
    • Archie Roach: Took the Children Away 
    • Briggs’ ensemble sequel with Gurrumul Children Came Back
    • Vanessa Amarosi: Absolutely Everybody
    • Stevie Nix/The Chicks: Landslide
    • The Killers: Mr Brightside
    • Tiddas: Sing About Life
  • Suggested by: Matthew Keeley

    After numerous delegations to meetings at UN Headquarters in New York to discuss and negotiate the terms of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, civil society and State representatives met in the General Assembly on the final occasion to witness the first concert to be held there. We all lived in hope that our hard work would pay off and that the recommendation of a final text for the Convention would be adopted by the General Assembly. UNSW Law was well represented there – Rosemary Kayess and Andrew Byrne had contributed significantly to the development of the draft Convention. That night we listened and danced to musicians including Hani Naser, Ruben Blades, Editus, Lou Reed (can you believe it?) and The Blind Boys. As the living, breathing embodiment of people with disability doing their thing out loud and proud, The Blind Boys packed an emotional punch that night that I have never forgotten. They sang songs from this album. As Clarence Fountain was fond of saying before nearly every song, “We’re going to sing you a little song. I think you’re going to like it.” We did. I hope you will too.

Art & Craft Projects

  • 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: The Criminology Team

    [from the website]: HOPE & SAFE presents the material results of two public banner projects in the UK and Melbourne responding to violence against women and current media coverage of this issue. Referencing and reviving moments in feminist history in which collective action and craftwork were deployed to enact change, HOPE & SAFE invokes a utopian reimagining of women’s safety and agency within the urban environment.

    https://www.katejust.com/hope-safe (with embedded link to in-depth essay by Dr Juliette Peters)

Websites and Blogs

  • 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 at futurecrun.ch/goodnews.

  • Suggested by: The Criminology Team


    In 2022 the International Network of Women who Use Drugs ran an anonymous blog competition, partly inspired by Alison Phipps’ call for a narcofeminism. Phipps writes “I am a feminist. I am a woman who uses drugs. Up until recently, these identities have been mutually exclusive, having rarely been held together in the same conceptual space... What, after all, could be more patriarchal than telling a woman what to do with/put in her body?”. Entrants to the competition reflected on how to respond to or navigate hopelessness. The winning blog reflected on how women who use drugs have been marginalised from long traditions of feminist work to take back outcast narratives in order to empower.


Thur 30 Nov | 6.30pm | Science Theatre

Sean Turnell | Melissa Crouch

In the wake of the 2021 military coup in Myanmar, Sean Turnell was held for 650 days in Myanmar’s terrifying Insein Prison on the trumped-up charge of being a spy. His improbable story as an optimistic economics professor unfolds in his recently published book, An Unlikely Prisoner, where he recounts how he survived his traumatic incarceration.

In an evening of conversation with Melissa Crouch, a UNSW Sydney Professor who was part of the team advocating for his freedom, Sean will share how he not only survived his lengthy and traumatic incarceration, but also left with his sense of humour intact, his spirit unbroken and love in his heart. Sean's unique perspective coupled with his expertise on Myanmar offers broader insights into the plight of the people and the political prisoners under Myanmar’s newest dictators, and the many human rights issues at play.

Register now
Wed 18 Oct | UNSW Law Theatre G04

From being the second woman appointed to the US Supreme Court until her passing, Ruth Bader Ginsburg fought fiercely to change the way we think about human rights and the judiciary system. Her inspiring legal journey was underscored by her tireless advocacy for gender equality and justice, and provides the backdrop for an evening of conversation about the Sydney Theatre Company work, RBG: Of Many, One.  

Step into the captivating world of theatre and law as we bring together three remarkable women – playwright and legal luminary, Suzie Miller, and acclaimed actor Heather Mitchell in conversation with producer Jo Dyer – who have left an indelible mark on the stage and beyond.  

Listen now
21 June & 23 June | UNSW Kensington

What is the Voice and what words will you be asked to vote on at the referendum?

Join UNSW Law & Justice together with your student representatives, UNSW Law Society Presidents for a meaningful discussion with our speakers, Associate Professor Sean Brennan and Uluru Youth Dialogue Co-Chair, Bridget Cama.

Our two speakers will explore the story behind Australia’s first referendum in more than 20 years. They will cover the debate so far and answer your questions about the upcoming vote about establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice in the Australian Constitution. 

Watch now

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