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International Symposium: Exploring our legal relationship with the living world

Dates: Thursday 25th and Friday 26th October
Venue: Griffith Ecocentre, 170 Kessels Road, Nathan, 4111 


Climate change, biodiversity loss and the global ecological crisis are forcing many people to rethink the legal, economic and governance structures underpinning contemporary industrial societies. People around the world are exploring innovative ways to use the law to better support the health of the living world.

One area receiving growing attention is the use of western legal constructs, such as legal personhood and rights based approaches, to shift the legal status of nature from being objects, and mere human property, to being recognised as subjects of the law. These legal approaches are seen by many as a way for human-centred western laws to be transformed towards Earth centred law and governance. ‘Rights of Nature’ laws now exist in Ecuador, Bolivia and the USA, and legal personhood laws and cases have emerged in New Zealand, India and Colombia. In Australia and the USA, the creation of ‘environmental water managers’ in domestic law has seen legal rights to water allocated to rivers and wetlands.

But are these ‘rights of nature’ and ‘legal personhood’ laws able to transform industrial societies and their legal relationship with the living world? In Australia, and around the world, First Nations Peoples have practiced ancient first laws since time immemorial; laws which have enabled them to care for land and sea country and maintain ecological health for millennia. These governance systems have much to teach the emerging efforts to build ecological laws in the 21st Century. Some First Nations Peoples have used ‘legal personhood’ laws to create a more pluralist legal framework; others remain concerned that these concepts further separate nature from people.

This conference will bring people together from around the world, to share their knowledge about how ancient and emerging ecological law and governance systems are working in the 21st century, and to discuss how to strengthen ecological governance in the coming decades.