What’s the Use of Public Interest Advocacy?


Looking back at three major cases he was involved in as a public interest advocate, Ray reflects on the ongoing questions: what’s the use of public interest advocacy and does it have a place at law school? The cases he will explore for answers to these questions are:

  • Inquest and the Police Integrity Commission Inquiry into the Police Shooting of Roni Levi on Bondi Beach, 28 June 1997 (1998-2001).
  • Public Inquiry into the Wrongful Detention of Cornelia Rau (2004-2005).
  • Fourth and Final Inquest into the Death of Baby Azaria Chamberlain at Uluru, 17 August 1980 (2012).


Ray Watterson has a long association with La Trobe Law School, including through its courses on “Public Interest Advocacy” and “Inquests, Inquiries and Commissions”. Ray has become synonymous with public interest advocacy due to championing the rights of many disadvantaged Australians. Ray and his colleagues, Dr John Boersig, Dr Robert Cavanagh, and Shaun McCarthy, are pioneers of law school based public interest advocacy in Australia. Ray, his colleagues and students, working as a public interest advocacy team, have been involved with services and practices in inquests and inquiries into black deaths in custody, mandatory detention, the mental health of inmates and the wellbeing of missing persons. Ray, his colleagues, and student team worked with Melinda Dundas, the widow of Roni Levi, after Roni was shot and killed by police on Bondi Beach, in the inquest and Police Integrity Commission inquiry into Roni’s death. Ray, his colleagues and student team were widely recognised for their contribution to the Palmer Inquiry into the treatment of Cornelia Rau. Ray also worked with his students and the late Michael Chamberlain and Lindy to secure, after 34 years, the fourth, and final, coronial finding that baby Azaria was taken and killed by a dingo at Uluru. Ray has written on media law and public interest advocacy. He is a co-author of two seminal articles “Law School Based Public Interest Advocacy: An Australian Story” International Journal of Clinical Legal Education (with Boersig and Cavanagh in 2002) and ‘Coronial Recommendations and the Prevention of Indigenous Death’ Australian Indigenous Law Review (with Penny Brown and John McKenzie in 2008). Ray remains a reliable, though rarely consulted source, for media reporting on coronial investigations and a hapless critic of the continuing failure of governments to monitor and implement recommendations provided by state coroners.


Date: Thursday 2 November 2017

Time: 11am to 12noon.

Venue: La Trobe University (Humanities 2 Building room 201), La Trobe University, Bundoora

Cost: Free

RVSP: Please register via Eventbrite.

La Trobe