Ai Weiwei’s Law of the Journey, 2017, an imposing installation featuring a 60-metre-long boat crowded with hundreds of anonymous refugee figures, provoked this frank discussion of Australia’s response to asylum seekers arriving by boat – and today’s approach to refugees globally.
What is the relevance of the 1951 Refugee Convention when more people have been forced to flee their homes now than at any time since the World War? How does international law influence domestic politics around the world? What are the repercussions of Australia’s bipartisan policy of offshore processing on Manus and Nauru, and is the country prepared to deal with current crises, such as the Rohingya exodus from Myanmar, or future pressures of people displaced by climate change?
International legal expert Guy Goodwin-Gill of UNSW’s Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law; lawyer and prize-winning Offshore author Madeline Gleeson; and award-winning Guardian journalist Ben Doherty talk law, policy, politics and solutions. The panel was moderated by Elaine Pearson, Australia Director, Human Rights Watch.
Presented by the Biennale of Sydney and UNSW’s Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law.
About the Speakers
Ben Doherty is immigration correspondent for The Guardian, based in Sydney. He was formerly Southeast Asia Correspondent for The Guardian, and South Asia Correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald. He has won three Walkley Awards, including in 2016 for a feature on the systemic flaws in Australia’s immigration detention regime, and in 2013 for an investigation into Bangladeshi sweatshop labour conditions. He was 2008 Australian Young Print Journalist of the Year and has been awarded three United Nations Association media peace prizes. He holds a Master of International Law and International Relations from UNSW, and in 2015, was a visiting fellow with the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford. His dissertation, 'Call Me Illegal', examined the semantics of asylum: the language used to describe asylum seekers in political and media debates, and its impact on public opinion.
Widely recognised as the preeminent legal scholar in the field of international refugee law, Guy S Goodwin-Gill is Acting Director of UNSW’s Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, Emeritus Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford and Emeritus Professor of International Refugee Law of the University of Oxford. He practises as a barrister from Blackstone Chambers in London. His distinguished career has encompassed various roles with UNHCR, advocacy before the courts in a number of prominent cases, and academic posts in Canada and throughout Europe. Professor Goodwin-Gill is a Patron of Asylum Aid in the United Kingdom, was the President of Refugee & Migrant Justice (London) for 13 years, President of the Media Appeals Board of Kosovo from 2000–03, and the Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Refugee Law (1988–2001).
The award-winning author of Offshore: Behind the Wire on Manus and Nauru, Madeline Gleeson is a lawyer and Senior Research Associate at UNSW’s Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law. She has worked on statelessness, refugees, human trafficking, labour migration and land grabbing with the Jesuit Refugee Service in Cambodia, and with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC) in Geneva. She also has human rights and refugee experience in South Africa and Indonesia. She holds a Master in International Law degree from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland, completed as a prestigious John Monash scholar. Her book, Offshore, won the 2017 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for non-fiction, was shortlisted for the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards and long-listed for the Walkley awards.
Elaine Pearson is the Australia Director at Human Rights Watch. Based in Sydney, she works to influence Australian foreign and domestic policies in order to give them a human rights dimension. Pearson regularly briefs journalists, politicians and government officials, appears on television and radio programs, testifies before parliamentary committees and speaks at public events. Pearson writes frequently for publications including Harper's Bazaar, The Guardian and the Wall Street Journal. She is an adjunct lecturer in law at UNSW Sydney. From 2007 to 2012 she was the Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch's Asia Division based in New York. Prior to joining Human Rights Watch, Pearson worked for the United Nations and various non-governmental organizations in Bangkok, Hong Kong, Kathmandu and London. She is an expert on migration and human trafficking issues and sits on the board of the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women. Pearson holds degrees in law and arts from Australia's Murdoch University and obtained her Master's degree in public policy at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.