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A Public Forum: Breaking Australia’s Silence – Wikileaks and Freedom

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Sydney Town Hall Public Forum, March 16th 2011

On March 16, a massive public forum in Sydney Town Hall was called to break Australia’s silence on these critical issues:

  • The denigration of basic liberties, such as freedom of speech and the presumption of innocence.
  • The right of Australians to know what their government is doing in secret in their name.
  • The plight of courageous Australian citizen Julian Assange, who is threatened with the fate of David Hicks unless we, his fellow citizens, act now.
  • The duty of those charged with alerting the public to the truth – journalists, broadcasters, teachers, lawyers, academics – to break their silence and speak up now.

Over two thousand engaged Australians descended on the Sydney Town Hall in an undeniable show of support for WikiLeaks and its founder, Australian-born Julian Assange. Acclaimed journalist, John Pilger; independent Federal MP and whistleblower, Andrew Wilkie; and barrister and human rights advocate, Julian Burnside, addressed the forum that was moderated by Mary Kostakidis.

Speaking to a packed crowd, the panel demanded that Canberra be held to account for its abandonment of the Australian Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange. Drawing strong connections between the cases of David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib, two Australian citizens forgotten and deceived by their government, the panel implored Australians to stand up for their right to diplomatic protection under the Australian passport. And that the crowd did, with innumerable cheers and ovations setting the tone of the public gathering.

Sydney Peace Foundation Director, Professor Stuart Rees, comments:‘This was one of the largest public meetings since the 2003 Iraq war protest. The audience’s response shows a complete mismatch between the attitudes of the Australian Government and that of the general public. In terms of a plea for justice, the biggest ovation went to David Hicks’.

The evening ended with a call to action by John Pilger, ensuring that momentum generated on March 16 is just the beginning of an engaged public movement demanding reforms in political transparency and openness and safeguarding the rights of Australian citizens to protection by their government.

The free forum at Sydney Town Hall was organised by The Sydney Peace Foundation with the generous support of Amnesty International and The City of Sydney.