Inside the Aid/Watch Case: Translating across Political and Legal Activism

James Goodman


The article explores the interaction between legal and political strategy in producing social change. It centres on a long-running dispute in Australia over whether charities can have a dominant political purpose. The focus is on the strategising of the small activist charity that successfully pursued the case over a five-year period. As an 'insider' account, the article charts the in-practice process of translating activisms across legal and political fields. With a stress on contingency and agency, the account affirms a 'politics of rights' approach to legal activism. It shows how the case opened-up new grounds for political contestation, and as such offered prospects for 'non-reformist reform'. It also demonstrates how this occurred more by strategic engagement with unintended effects, than necessarily by design.

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