Monash Law School releases human rights report card

15 May 2014

Real freedom, gender-based violence, terrorism laws, and asylum seekers’ rights are all considered in a report on vital human rights issues in Australia and around the world.
The 2014 Castan Human Rights Report, by Monash University’s Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, highlights the centre’s research and its relevance to some of the most important human rights issues facing society.

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A key finding of the report is that freedom in Australia is being undermined.
Director of the Castan Centre Professor Sarah Joseph said the recent narrow debate on the “right to be a bigot” had camouflaged the real effects of changes to legislation.
“The ‘bikie laws,’ police move-on powers, copyright laws, and even threats to remove government funding from artists are all reducing society’s freedom,” Professor Joseph said.
Senior Monash University Law School lecturer Dr Heli Askola said that the recent spate of cases of domestic violence shows that the existing laws are not going far enough to protect the most vulnerable in our society.
“Australia’s ‘National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women’ has the potential to create change; however, it must be backed up with sufficient funding and better implementation,” Dr Askola said.
Current terrorism laws in Australia also need closer consideration, according to the Centre’s Dr Patrick Emerton.
“ASIO’s (Australian Security Intelligence Organisation) excessive powers to make ‘predictive judgments’ about potential terrorists—such as ‘adverse assessments’ of bona fide refugees—threaten human rights,” Dr Emerton said. “For this reason ASIO’s powers must be brought into line with human rights norms.”
The report takes up the issue of asylum seekers’ rights.
Dr Azadeh Dastyari has identified at least seven international laws breached by current asylum seeker and refugee policies and practices.
“Contrary to the Australian government’s oft-repeated assertion that it respects asylum seekers’ rights, the current situation doesn’t reflect this,” the Senior Monash Law School lecturer said.
“Asylum seekers cannot have their detention reviewed by the courts. Conditions on Nauru and Manus Island breach the prohibition on cruel or degrading treatment and the detention of children on Nauru breaches Australia’s international obligations to act in the best interests of the child.
“By treating those arriving by boat differently to other asylum seekers, Australia is violating its obligation not to punish refugees for their mode of arrival.”
Dr Dastyari said that in addition to these violations, practices such as push-backs to Indonesia and the removal of legal aid increased the chances that genuine refugees would be returned to harm and were in clear violation of Australia’s non-refoulement obligations.
The inaugural report provides in-depth analysis and commentary on a range of other crucial human rights issues including a better asylum seeker model; Australia’s growing prison crisis; LGBTI rights; foreign aid; business and human rights; human rights in closed environments; and reproductive rights.

About the Castan Centre at Monash Law School

Based at Monash Law School, the Castan Centre strives to create a stronger culture of human rights in Australia. The centre believes that human rights must be respected and protected, allowing people to pursue their lives in freedom and with dignity. Since the Castan Centre’s foundation in 2000, they have worked in six broad areas:
  1. Policy, through engagement with parliaments, direct representations to governments and contributions to public debates on important issues.
  2. Public education, including numerous public event featuring prominent Australian and international human rights figures, and a burgeoning social media presence.
  3. Student programs including international and in-house internship programs, careers guidance and mooting competitions.
  4. Teaching, through the oldest human rights law masters degree in Australia, as well as a thriving undergraduate human rights program.
  5. World-renowned research on many of the most pressing human rights issues.
  6. Human rights training and consultancies aimed at educating Australian and international government officials about human rights.

Monash Law School Juris Doctor (JD) Program

The Monash JD is a graduate law degree designed to teach the knowledge and skills required to practice law. This innovative law degree recognizes the needs of graduates who wish to study law, providing the transferable skills and knowledge only a law degree from one of Australia’s leading universities can provide.
The Monash JD comprises 24 units, taught in a small, seminar-style format that facilitates interactive learning and lively class debate. The program is taught in trimesters at the Monash University Law Chambers (city campus), in the heart of Melbourne’s Central Business District and legal precinct.
Program: Juris Doctor (JD)
Location: Melbourne, Victoria
Semester intake: February 2015
Duration: 3 years (accelerated option: a minimum of 2.5 years)
Application deadline: Applications are generally assessed on a rolling admissions basis.

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