Moira Rayner's 'spiritual' fight for justice


'Justice has been done,' declared President Barack Obama when announcing the assassination of Osama bin Laden in May of this year. And generally, around the globe, the actions of the Americans were applauded in ridding the world of this terrorist demagogue.

The very next day, true to form, barrister and human rights activist, Moira Rayner, went into print in Eureka Street arguing that bin Laden should have been captured alive and given a fair trial. 'We have not achieved justice ... by acting unjustly,' she wrote. 'Extra-judicial killings are, as Osama bin Laden's death was, murder.'

Throughout her long and colourful legal career, Rayner has been an unwavering advocate for human rights. However a series of personal and professional crises in 2005 led to a reappraisal of her life, which included an exploration and discovery of a totally new spiritual direction.

Rayner talks about some of these issues in this interview, one of a series with prominent contributors to Eureka Street to mark its 20th anniversary. It took place at Campion Ignatian Spirituality Centre in Melbourne.

She has studied at the centre, recently completing the three-year Arrupe Program that qualifies participants to give the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius. The Exercises were originally formulated by St Ignatius of Loyola (1491–1556), the founder of the Jesuit Order.

Brought up in a strict Presbyterian household, as an adult Rayner left this behind and explored secular and Eastern spiritualities before finding the Ignatian Exercises in 2005.

Training as a spiritual director is just one passion of this dynamic and multifaceted woman. She has a law degree with honours, and a Master's degree in public policy. As well as working as a barrister, she has had a leading role in many public institutions that safeguard and foster human rights.

She was Victoria's last Commissioner for Equal Opportunity, and has been acting deputy director of research for the Australian Institute of Family Studies. She was a hearings commissioner of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission and the first director of the Office of Children's Rights Commission for London.

She is a registered civil celebrant, providing ceremonies for weddings, commitment services, renewal of vows, name-givings, funerals, adolescent rites of passage, coming-of-age, and major life changes.

Rayner now works for a large law firm in Melbourne, and teaches as a senior fellow at Melbourne University's Law School. She has co-authored several books on governance, human rights, public policy, and the role of women in society.


Peter KirkwoodPeter Kirkwood is a freelance writer and video consultant with a master's degree from the Sydney College of Divinity.

Topic tags: Peter Kirkwood, Moira Rayner, Osama bin Laden, Christine Nixon



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Existing comments

I enjoyed your article on Moira Rayner, as I will always remember her thorough and excellently reasoned articles.

john stuyfbergen | 21 October 2011  

this is fantastic. what an inspiring story...wish this could be on the front page of the AGE

michele bence | 21 October 2011  

Moira - I hope that you have found what you have been seeking all these years.

But why is your work with the Crime and Corruption Commission not included ? You did perform an important task even though the final outcome was very sad.

nick agocs | 21 October 2011  

Moira, you are an inspiration and gift to the Kingdom! May you life continue to inspire and cross boundaries and barriers and enlarge the ministry of the Spiritual Exercises.

Bernadette MIles | 21 October 2011  

Wonderful interview, Peter!

Mathew Crane | 24 October 2011  

While I would be the first to advocate and support human rights i have never felt comfortable that the concept is not another secular way of inventing a human based ethical system. It is a bit like humanism. I find a God centred ethical framework more sustaining and life enhancing.

graham paatison | 03 November 2011  

Wonderful article. Thank you. Interview well worth watching and beautifully produced.

Deborah Coulthard | 03 July 2012  


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