Freedom19 Conference

Wednesday 4 September, 8am - 4pm // NSW Parliament House, Sydney

Freedom19 – The Benefits of Religious Freedom to a Civil Society

We live in a time when many see religion and freedom for religion as a threat to civil society. Religious belief is decried as the cause of violence, extremism, the stifling of free thought and the subjugation of others. These are important challenges. If religion poisons everything then wouldn’t we be better off without freedom for it? At most should the law allow for a tolerance of ’nice believers’ whose beliefs and speech do not cause harm to others? Shouldn’t conformity to good social norms be preferred over freedom to dissent? 

The Commonwealth is drafting potentially significant legislative protection for freedom of belief. We want to therefore pause and ask the question - what are the benefits of religious freedom to a civil society?

Freedom19 is a unique opportunity to network with some of Australia’s leading thinkers on freedom of belief thought and conscience. In the contested intersection of culture, public theology, and law, we want to offer a platform for the best possible conversations. 

So join with us on September 4 at NSW Parliament House.

We will begin at 8am with a networking breakfast, morning tea and lunch will be provided, and we will finish by 4pm. 


Throughout the day you will hear from prominent speakers including Justice Sarah Derrington, Senator Amanda Stoker, Prof. Patrick Parkinson AM, Prof. Nicholas Aroney and Dr. Rory Shiner.

Don’t miss out! Book tickets HERE .

I look forward to seeing you.

Michael Kellahan

Executive Director | Freedom for Faith 


Justice Sarah Derrington

Justice Sarah Derrington is the President of the Australian Law Reform Commission.

Prior to her appointment to the Federal Court, Justice Derrington was the Dean of Law at the University of Queensland and a barrister specialised in maritime and shipping law, general commercial law and arbitration. With James M Turner QC of the English Bar, she co-authored The Law and Practice of Admiralty Matters, now in its second edition (OUP, 2016).

Justice Derrington is a Past President of the Maritime Law Association of Australia and New Zealand (MLAANZ) and continues to represent Australia and New Zealand in various international working groups of the Comité Maritime International (CMI), of which she was appointed a Titular Member in 2016. Between 2012 and 2017, she served on the board of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA). She has been a member of the Admiralty Rules Committee since 2006 and continues to serve on the Councils of the Australian Maritime College (AMC) and the Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM). She was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Law in 2009 and of the Nautical Institute in 2013.

Senator Amanda Stoker

Amanda is married to Adam, and is a mother of three young girls. She comes to the Senate after a career in the legal profession. Amanda studied law at Sydney University, and commenced her career at Minter Ellison. She was associate to then Justice Ian Callinan AC QC on the High Court of Australia, and Justice Philip McMurdo, who was then on the Supreme Court of Queensland’s commercial list. After some time prosecuting for the Commonwealth in Brisbane and Townsville, Amanda joined the private bar. As a member of Level Twenty Seven Chambers, she practiced in commercial law, administrative law and corporate crime. Amanda has served as Vice-President of the Women Lawyers Association of Queensland and has taught in the faculty of Business and Law at Central Queensland University.

As a Brisbane-based member of the Liberal National Party, Amanda sits in the Liberal Party room in Canberra. Amanda is on the Economics, Finance and Public Administration, Public Works, and Regulations and Ordinances Senate Committees, as well as the Joint Statutory Committee on Intelligence and Security. She is Chair of the Joint Statutory Committee on the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity.

Prof. Patrick Parkinson AM

Patrick Parkinson is the Academic Dean and Head of School for the TC Beirne School of Law.

He was previously a professor of law at the University of Sydney. He was President of the International Society of Family Law from 2011-2014. He served from 2004-2007 as Chairperson of the Family Law Council, an advisory body to the Australian Attorney-General, and also chaired a review of the Child Support Scheme in 2004-05 which led to the enactment of major changes to the child support system.

His books include Australian Family Law in Context (6th ed, 2015), Tradition and Change in Australian Law (5th ed, 2013), Family Law and the Indissolubility of Parenthood (2011), The Voice of a Child in Family Law Disputes (with Judy Cashmore, 2008), Child Sexual Abuse and the Churches (2nd ed, 2003) and Principles of Equity (editor, 2nd ed., 2003).

He has also written on issues of religious freedom.

Professor Nicholas Aroney

Nicholas Aroney is Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Queensland.

He has initiated and led several international collaborative research projects in constitutional law and legal theory, with particular emphasis on questions relating to the theory and practice of federalism, the design and performance of bicameral parliamentary systems and questions concerning religious freedom in multicultural societies and the accommodation of Islamic law within Western democratic states.

In 2011 he was awarded a four year Australian Research Council fellowship to undertake research on comparative federalism.

He has held visiting positions at Oxford, Paris, Edinburgh, Emory and Sydney universities and is the author of over 100 books, book chapters and articles. His books include The Constitution of a Federal Commonwealth: The Making and Meaning of the Australian Constitution (Cambridge University Press, 2009), Sharia in the West (Oxford University Press, 2010), The Future of Australian Federalism (Cambridge University Press, 2012), The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia: History, Principle and Interpretation (Cambridge University Press, 2015) and Courts in Federal Countries (Toronto University Press, 2018).

Mark Sneddon

Mark Sneddon is the Executive Director of the Institute for Civil Society. He is a lawyer with a longstanding interest in promoting the freedoms of expression, conscience, association, and religion in our society, as well as seeking to encourage a civil discussion and debate on these liberties and their relation to public policy.

Mark was formerly Associate Professor of Law at the University of Melbourne Law School, and a senior lecturer at Monash University Law School in constitutional law, banking and financial services, e-business, and communications law. He has also taught at Osgoode Hall Law School, Canada, and Loyola Law School in the United States.

Mark was a partner at Clayton Utz in Melbourne for nearly 12 years until 2011, working primarily in commercial and finance law, e-business and government services.

In June 2016 he completed four and half years as Crown Counsel (Advisings) to the Victorian Attorney-General and Office of the Premier providing legal and legal policy advice and services across a wide range of subject matter including constitutional and human rights law.

In addition to his role at ICS, Mark is currently a partner in a Melbourne commercial law firm.

Dr. Rory Shiner

Dr Rory Shiner holds a PhD in history from Macquarie University. He has published academic work on Australian religious history, evangelicalism, history of theology, and liturgical reform. He has written two popular-level books on union with Christ and the theology of resurrection, and has published articles on public theology for ABC Religion and Ethics and The Huffington Post. 

Rory currently serves as the senior pastor of Providence Church in Perth, Western Australia.

Freedom for Faith is a legal think tank that protects and promotes religious freedom in Australia and beyond.


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