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Julian Burnside, Barrister And Refugee Advocate

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Discuss about the Julian Burnside, Barrister and Refugee Advocate.



Julian William Kennedy Burnside was born on 9th June 1949 in Australia barrister. He is an author and an advocate of human right and refugee. He pursue principally in trade, commercial litigation, and administrative law. The staunch opposition by Burnside to the mandatory detention of asylum seeker made him famous, and got a break through to counsel cases which are of high profile (Northouse, 2012).

In 2009, Julian was appointed an officer of the order of Australia to deliver as the advocate for human right. He mainly represented the asylum seekers and the refugees as their fundraiser and patron.

Early Life

Julian mother was Olwen Lloyd Banks, and his father was Kennedy Bryon Burnside, and they lived in Melbourne. Julian father was a protuberant Melbourne urologist. Burnside started his school at Melbourne Grammar School where he performed well and graduated with a lot of prices and scholarships. He then attended Monash University where he studied economics and law with the aim of working as an organization consultant. While still in university, Julian showed a great talent for studying law, and he competed in a mock court competition at Moot Court. Burnside was nominated to go to New Zealand and  represent Monash at an international competition where he won a Black Cup for being the best speaker during this competition. The adjudicator who was the chief justice of New Zealand then talked to Burnside and persuaded him to take a career as a barrister. Burnside in 1992 graduated with a bachelor of economics, and a year later he graduated with a Bachelor of Law (Burnside, 2009).

Burnside has a family of four. Her wife Kate, a foster son, Mosa and daughter Katherine.


Professional Career

In 1976, Julian was acknowledged as a barrister of the Supreme Court, and thirteen years later, he was hired a Queen’s Counsel. Burnside work has always aimed majorly on commercial law. This has enabled him to appear in many commercial cases which are significant mostly trade practices and take-over cases.

Burnside was well known as a commercial lawyer due to his representation of high profile cases for wealthiest Australians like Rose Porteous and Alan Bond. Burnside acted for big end town until the late 1990s.

In 1998, the battle between Patrick Corporation and the Maritime Union of Australia through the 1998 Australian waterfront dispute which was one Australia’s longest and severe industrial association’s disputes, Burnside acted for Maritime Union of Australia which surprised many people. The matter was moved to the high court of Australia which the union finally won, albeit certain conditions. This is one of the most memorable cases of Burnside, and he describes that for justice of workplace to exist, it was important to have a union of that kind (Burnside, 2009). The involvement of advocate Burnside in the disagreement is shown by Rhy Muldoon in 2007 ABC miniseries Bastard Boys.

From the 1990s, Burnside started working more on pro bono legal job on a range of issues related to the human right. He represented Victoria’s chief civil liberties organization in a case against the government of Australia regarding Tampa affairs and passionately criticized John Howard’s Government for the detention of asylum seekers immediately they arrived in Australia. With his family, Julian spared a room to host refugee and extra lawyers for refugees, an act which provided a legal representation and a free accommodation of refugees in Australia (Burnside, 2009).

Along all this period, Burnside upheld his job as a commercial litigator, appearing on major class actions, general commercial cases, and trade practices cases.

Indigenous Australians have also been represented by Burnside with the most famous being the case for Trevorrow Bruce, the Native generation member who sued the Government of South Australia for having separated him from his parents. Mr. Trevorrow won the case, and it was the first time an Australian government was charged guilty of such conduct and the government paid $500,000 compensation in damage (Nohria & Khurana, 2013).

Burnside was granted the Human Right Law award in 2004 by the Human Right and Equal Opportunity Commission and sponsored by the Law Council of Australia. This was due to his pro-bono authorized work that he did for asylum seekers and also for providing a spare lawyer for refugees. In the same year, Burnside was elected an Australian Living Treasures. Peace Organization of Australia included Burnside on the Australia Peace price in 2007and in 2014, Sydney Peace Foundation awarded Burnside with the Sydney Peace Price award (Van, 2013)

As a writer, many books in human right, law, and philosophy has been written by Burnside. In addition to his job as a lawyer, Burnside is a patron of many art organization. He is a chair of two art organization, and he regularly contacts classical sculptures and music compositions. Julian was in charge of Lyle Chan who is an Australian composer for a tongue in cheek work titled Wind Farm music dedicated To Tony Addott. The song gain publicity since it passed the message to the prime minister complaining about anti-renewal energy policy.

Some of the cases that have been counseled by Julian Burnside are:

  1. He defended Allan Bond
  2. He assisted Australian Broadcasting Authorities to interrogate John Laws and Alan Jones,
  3. He helped the Maritime Union of Australia in the high court to defeat Patrick Stevedores playing the main role of dramatizing ABC miniseries Bastard Boys
  4. Burnside was the counsel for the Ok Tedi natives against BHP
  5. Burnside helped Trevorrow Bruce to successfully claim compensation for damage as stolen generation member against the state of South Australia. And this was a historic win (Bass, et al, 2003).
  6. He represented Rose Porteous in many actions against Gina Rinehart among other cases

Approach of Leadership and Leadership Theory

The type of leadership style used by Julian Burnside is democratic. The leader is so relaxed and involves the follower in decision making. In this case, Burnside represented asylums and organized for the refugees a lawyer so that the court should judge whoever was right (Roughton and Mercurio, 2002).

The theory used by the leader is the transformational theory. In this theory, the leader interacts with others and is capable of creating a good rapport that results in a high percentage of trust which will eventually increase extrinsic and extrinsic motive in followers and the leader.

Burnside transformed his followers through his inspirational nature and charismatic personalities. The attribute of Burnside to asylum and the refugees also provided them with a sense of belonging as they easily identified the leader and his contributions.

Key Challenges faced by Leaders

Leaders always encounter different problems in their diverse life. The main two challenges that were faced by Burnside were critics and career damage.


Burnside has faced critics in many instances, and the latest instant was in July 2016 when he published a blog post supporting a statement made by Shady AL Suleiman who is an Australian Muslim cleric. Shady comment on HIV/AIDS was purporting that all diseases were being spread by homosexuality citing that when you contact a doctor, you will realize that evil action caused wicked outcomes to the society. Burnside wrote saying that the remarks by AL Suleiman’s appeared to be true and real as a problem of medical observation. He later received critics from the Spectator Australia and the Herland sun which are opinion columnists. There was also a letter written by Rita Panahi accusing Julian of spreading a label that the spread of HIV/AIDS was a responsibility of Homosexuals. Burnside managed this challenge by explaining in his next post that he did not disapprove gay people hence they should be left to live their life directed by their instincts (Woods, 2004).

Leaders can avoid this type of critics by not taking sides or by keeping quite.

Career Damage

Another challenge faced by leaders is that their career is being damaged. Burnside says that his career has been damaged by activism, because of the time it consumes, and it is to the contrary that the judges and the barrister do not speak on the public issue and he accepts that the rise of Pauline Hanson may seep away his victory.

According to Burnside, he is a barrister and e is focused on winning but moving away maybe a personal expense for quite long. There is also a big barrier from the judges as they view Burnside as the leader of the human right who has a great mass behind him. Burnside has come to a view that he may not see success, but he has the pledge to continue trying to fight for human rights (Goleman, 2003).

Lesson Learned from Burnside

From the action of Julian Burnside, we can learn that we can use our career to fight for other people’s right and be recognized. Julian Burnside used is a career as a barrister and as an advocate to help refugees and the asylums. This act made him win many awards. He also presented the union in the court and helped them win the most controversial case. The cases represented by the advocate were many mostly those of human right and those of commercial laws (Briskman, et al, 2008).

From the story, we also learn how to maintain challenges like critics and career. This will help in creating good relation with the public and serving those in need well. The approach used by Burnside was a transformative method with democratic leadership style, and this worked well since trust and rapport were created (Johnson, 2013). 



Bass, B.M., Avolio, B.J., Jung, D.I. and Berson, Y., 2003. Predicting unit performance by assessing transformational and transactional leadership. Journal of applied psychology, 88(2), p.207.

Briskman, L., Latham, S., Goddard, C., Street, K. and Bentley, P., 2008. Human rights overboard. Melbourne, Victoria: Scribe Publications.

Burnside, J., 2009. Wordwatching. Scribe Publications Pty Ltd.

Goleman, D., 2003. What makes a leader. Organizational influence processes, pp.229-241.

Johnson, C.E., 2013. Meeting the ethical challenges of leadership: Casting light or shadow. Sage Publications.

Nohria, N. and Khurana, R. eds., 2013. Handbook of leadership theory and practice: An HBS centennial colloquium on advancing leadership. Harvard Business Press.

Northouse, P.G., 2012. Leadership: Theory and practice. Sage.

Roughton, J. and Mercurio, J., 2002. Developing an effective safety culture: A leadership approach. Butterworth-Heinemann.

Van Wart, M., 2013. Lessons from leadership theory and the contemporary challenges of leaders. Public Administration Review, 73(4), pp.553-565.

Woods, P.A., 2004. Democratic leadership: drawing distinctions with distributed leadership. International journal of Leadership in Education, 7(1), pp.3-26.


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