The first of three keynote speakers, Dr John Falzon, gave an inspiring talk on homelessness. John is a Senior Fellow with Per Capita and the former CEO of the St Vincent de Paul Society National Council of Victoria. His Maltese parents migrated to Australia from the East End of London when John was only seven and they all lived in his uncle’s garage in Blacktown, in Sydney’s outer west, before moving into their own house nearby.
John’s interest in issues of social justice stems from his own family context. His father instilled in him a sense of what social justice means for working people. In John’s words, “I saw my own father suffering the effects of injustice when he got cancer from having to use carcinogenic solvents while testing road materials for a large company.”
He had a strong academic interest which led to his gaining a PhD and working in academia. He holds degrees in Literature,Theology, Philosophy, Politics and Social Analysis. He is also a published poet.However, he has always had an interest in being involved at the grassroots level.
John has written and spoken widely on the structural causes of marginalisation and inequality in Australia and has long been involved in advocacy campaigns for a fairer and more inclusive Australia, especially regarding welfare legislation, housing justice,homelessness and poverty.
Second keynote speaker Jacqui Agius gave a very entertaining and hilariously expletive-laden talk on the subject, ‘fighting in a hostile environment’– she’s a paid troublemaker and she loves it.
Jacqui’s a lawyer and union activist, working as the Senior Industrial Officer for the AEU ACT, and has long been active in the struggle for workers' rights and led the battle to have occupational violence in schools recognised and addressed in the ACT and has spoken widely at rallies and conferences on issues such as women's health rights, refugees, public education, the Safe Schools Program and the Change the Rules Campaign. Before working at the AEU, Jacqui worked in private legal practice mainly in criminal defence,before that she was a high school teacher. She has been Assistant Secretary for Unions ACT and is currently the Vice President of Unions ACT. Jacqui is a proud unionist, feminist and socialist.
Another crowd favourite guest speaker was Thomas Mayor, the CFMEU’s National Indigenous Officer, and a Torres Strait Islander who was born and raised on Larrakia Land in Darwin.
He was a wharfie for sixteen years before becoming an official of his union, and in 2017 Thomas attended the Darwin Regional Constitutional Dialogue, where he was elected to represent the region at the Uluru National Constitutional Convention.
Since the overwhelming endorsement of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, Thomas has tirelessly advocated for its proposals and is the author of Finding the Heart of the Nation – the journey of the Uluru Statement towards Voice, Treaty and Truth, published by Hardie Grant, a book that tells his story, the story of the Uluru Statement,and features some of the remarkable Indigenous people he met on his campaigning journey.