Session 3 | Restoring public trust in democratic institutions and reinforcing rights

Wednesday, 11 October 2023
5.30pm for 6pm start-7.30pm (AEDT)
Meers Hall, North Building, Art Gallery of New South Wales

This session of the conference will consider innovative approaches to reclaiming accountability as a fundamental safeguard of democratic governance.

It will explore how to restore public faith in the values and structures underpinning representative government and the role of key stakeholder groups such as business, media and civil society in resisting impunity, reclaiming accountability and reinforcing human rights.

This session will be opened by UNSW Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Attila Brungs.

Ed Coper

Ed Coper

Ed Coper is recognised as a leading expert on communications for social impact. He has built social change initiatives, advocacy campaigns and political movements. He pioneered techniques that bring politics into the digital age, has advised campaigns on every continent except Antarctica, and high-profile changemakers from Malala Yousafzai to Richard Branson. Ed is a regular media commentator and author of the disinformation defence handbook Facts and Other Lies: Welcome to the Disinformation Age (Allen & Unwin, 2022).

Ed founded the New York-based Center for Impact Communications, which has led efforts to safeguard US elections from disinformation and overcome vaccine hesitancy. Ed also founded a New York City creative agency that serviced multiple Nobel Peace laureates, political and social leaders to scale their social impact. His groundbreaking campaigns have raised hundreds of millions of dollars for causes, won landmark social change and have featured in several museum exhibitions. Ed is the co-founder of Sydney-based strategic communications firm Populares, credited as the masterminds behind the recent 'teal' political wave.

Andrea Durbach


Andrea Durbach is Emeritus Professor and was Director of the Australian Human Rights Centre (now Institute), UNSW Law from 2004-2017.

Born and educated in South Africa, she practised as a political trial lawyer and human rights advocate, representing victims and opponents of apartheid laws. After leaving South Africa, Andrea worked in private practice before joining the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) as Head of Legal Practice, subsequently becoming Executive Director. Andrea has held senior positions in the human rights field, including as Deputy Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner, member of the Advisory Council of Jurists of the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Commissions, and of the Defence Force Abuse Response Taskforce. She is a Foundation Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law and in 2013, was awarded the Australian Human Rights Commission Human Rights Law Award for her promotion and advancement of human rights in Australia through the practice of law.

Helen Haines, MP

Helen Haines

Helen Haines is the independent Federal Member for Indi in the state of Victoria. She was elected to Parliament in 2019, the first independent to follow an independent in Australian history. She was re-elected in 2022 with an increased margin. In November 2022, the Australian Parliament legislated a National Anti-Corruption Commission which was based on Helen’s Australian Federal Integrity Commission Bill, described by experts as a “gold-standard model”.

Prior to entering politics, Helen worked as a nurse, midwife, health administrator and rural health researcher in Victoria’s North East for more than 30 years.  She is the first midwife in Australian Parliament and one of only two nurses in Parliament. She holds a master’s degree in Public Health from the University of New South Wales and a PhD in Medical Science from Uppsala University, Sweden. She was awarded the 2022 McKinnon Emerging Political Leader of the Year for her work on integrity in politics, dedication to serving her electorate and her considerable impact as a “community-driven” leader on the national stage.

Simon Holmes à Court


Simon Holmes à Court is the founder of Climate 200, the community crowdfunding initiative with 11,200 donors from all 151 Australian electorates. At the 2022 federal election, Climate 200’s donors levelled the playing field for climate, integrity and gender equity ambitious community independents, helping to elect seven new independents to the Australian Parliament.  

Simon began his career as a software engineer in Silicon Valley during the first dotcom wave, then spent more than a decade in precision farm water management. Simon was a driving force behind the country’s first community-owned wind farm, Hepburn Wind, near Daylesford in Central Victoria. He is an energy analyst, clean tech investor, climate philanthropist, director of the Smart Energy Council and the Australian Environmental Grantmakers Network and writes regularly about the transformation of Australia’s energy sector. 

Shireen Morris


Dr Shireen Morris is a constitutional lawyer, senior lecturer and director of the Radical Centre Reform Lab at Macquarie University Law School. She has spent the last 12 years working with Indigenous leaders like Noel Pearson and working with Cape York Institute, devising and advocating the concept of a constitutionally guaranteed Indigenous Voice, which was the subject of her 2017 PhD thesis.

Since 2020, Shireen has been particularly focused on building multicultural and multifaith support for the Voice. Other research interests include free speech and the implied freedom of political communication, Australian republicanism, and economic inequality. Shireen delivered the 2022 John Button Oration on radical centre economic reform. She publishes widely in academia and mainstream media and often commentates on TV and radio. Books include: Statements from the Soul: the moral case for the Uluru Statement from the Heart (2023), A First Nations Voice in the Australian Constitution (2020), A Rightful Place: a roadmap to recognition (2017), The Forgotten People: liberal and conservative approaches to recognising Indigenous peoples (2016). 

Natasha Mitchell 

Natasha Mitchell

Natasha Mitchell is a multi-award-winning journalist, radio presenter, podcaster, and audio storyteller with a focus on science, society, and human rights. She is host of the ABC Radio National's flagship live events program and podcast Big Ideas, was founding host and producer of the internationally renowned radio show and one of the ABC’s first podcasts, All in the Mind, which won the Grand Prize and four Gold World Medals at the New York Radio Festivals, amongst other awards.

Natasha hosted the ABC's flagship daily social affairs program Life Matters, and was founding host and producer of Science Friction, awarded Best Science and Medicine podcast at the Australian Podcast Awards. Natasha served as a board member and vice president of the World Federation of Science Journalists and was recipient of an MIT Knight Fellowship. She has facilitated many public forums around Australia, including four science dialogues with the Dalai Lama and guests. She has an engineering degree with first class honours, and a postgraduate diploma in science communication.