The 2017 Hadassah Australia Annual Oration was held in Sydney on 27 August. The keynote speaker was the Honourable Justice Kirby AC CMG, and his topic was ‘Is the United Nations our best chance for global peace?’ He looked broadly at two major global issues with which he had been recently involved, and raised a serious alert on North Korea and the role of the UN in trying to resolve what he noted was a “serious and potentially global disaster”.

Keynote Speaker:                          Tikkun Olam Award presenter:   Tikkun Olam Award recipient:
The Hon Justice Michael Kirby AC CM | Prof The Hon Dame Marie Bashir AD CVO | Prof Les White AM

Like many of us, I had little knowledge about North Korea before taking a role with the UN (in 2013) to investigate the regime’s human rights abuses. Although we weren’t able to visit the North we had access to the personal testimonies of over 30,000 North Koreans now living in the South. The picture that emerged is truly terrifying. For any Australian thinking a nuclear conflict in north Asia will not impact on us, think again. For the millions that will be killed in a nuclear exchange there will be millions who will be directly affected – including Australians – through the collapse of the food chain and key markets.

Reflecting on access to essential healthcare, one of the UN’s millennial goals, Justice Kirby noted the inherent tension between the protection of the right of inventors to enjoy the fruit of their intellectual creativity and the right of people from countries around the world, and in particular the developing world, to get access to life-saving medicine at an affordable price.

I was privileged to serve on a key UN committee set up to address this issue. It was comprised of representatives of ‘Big Pharma’ and of representatives of countries with ‘Big Health Needs’. The amazing thing was that the process yielded a set of recommendations that have been signed off by all sides and is now in the process of being ratified by individual countries after having been approved by the UN.

Hadassah Australia’s recognition of prominent Australians who have made a demonstrable difference in the health sector continued with the presentation of the 2017 Tikkun Olam Award to Professor Leslie White AM. Professor White is a highly deserving recipient of the prestigious award. He has had a distinguished career in clinical, academic, advocacy and health executive settings, and has made significant multi-national contributions to the advancement of paediatric healthcare. Professor White AM has served six years as the Chief Paediatrician of NSW as well as several other positions in which he developed policies and strategies to better children’s healthcare.

In conferring the award to Professor White, 2013 Hadassah Australia Tikkun Olam awardee, former NSW Governor, Professor Dame Marie Bashir AD, noted her personal experience when visiting Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem in July, 2014. She said:

I had the opportunity to move freely through the children’s intensive care wards. I saw for myself the world-class healthcare that these children were getting and I saw that it was being provided to all, irrespective of background. Israelis and Palestinians together was inspiring and something I will always remember and cherish.