Master of Human Rights Postgraduate Coursework 2012

Asante Viswasam and Oxfam International Youth Partnership (OIYP) program


My main role during the internship was to create a resource for a Human Rights and Advocacy E-Workshop for OIYP as well as helping with general duties such as creating potential newsletters, design briefs and attending meetings regarding current OIYP issues. I was also given the opportunity to read the stories of, and communicate with, a number of amazing and inspirational young people from around the world who have worked to improve the social conditions of their communities.

After the internship placement I developed a research project addressing the question: ‘How effective is the media in communicating a rights-based discourse of climate change?’ My topic choice was drawn from my research into the use of the media as an advocacy instrument (through the development of the E-workshop booklet) and I tied it in with the theme of climate change.

Partaking in the internship program was definitely the right choice as it gave me confidence in my abilities, strengthened my knowledge in human rights, gave me the opportunity to experience working in a rights-based organisation, and it gave me the opportunity to explore a specific body of literature.

“We look for someone with loads of personality who can bring their bright ideas to the team. Asante worked on developing a toolkit for our Human Resources and Advocacy e-Workshop – 45 youth partners participated in this workshop and the workbook was translated into Spanish. It will be a great resource for OIYP to use in the future”

(Mary James, Internship Supervisor)

Phaedra Engel-Harrison and Psychosocial Recovery and Development East Timor (PRADET)


My internship project involved observing and documenting the work of local East Timorese NGO PRADET from a human rights perspective. The aim of the project was to produce written material that would be useful to PRADET in the promotion of their activities and the acquisition of future funding. I gained a working knowledge of local NGO activities, the importance of their work particularly in post-conflict zones such as East Timor, and the obstacles facing them.

After the internship placement I developed an investigative report on the implementation, protection and promotion of international human rights standards by local NGOs with the assistance of the international community and the state. The work of local NGO PRADET was used as a case study to illustrate how localised, autonomous activity can ensure human rights for the people, and also how other actors might better assist this process.

I would recommend participating in the internship program to acquire experience working in a human rights orientated organisation, in particular, to gain an understanding of the vital importance of such work, the challenges and obstacles faced, as well as the ongoing achievements of such organisations.

Renee Arian and the UNHCR Regional Office for Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea & the South Pacific


My role at the UNHCR was to research the concept of the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ – the notion that the international community has the responsibility to protect populations from atrocity crimes, through peaceful measures and ultimately as a last resort through forceful measures if a state is manifestly failing to do so itself – to learn about the activities of the UNHCR, and to keep up to date with daily international affairs that may have been of concern to the UNHCR.

After the internship I developed a research project entitled ‘The Responsibility to Protect: Rhetoric or Reality?’ The project focused on the implications of the failure to practically embrace the Responsibility to Protect in Darfur and Zimbabwe upon humanitarian agencies such as the UNHCR.

The internship has been a wonderful way to network and has provided valuable and rewarding career experience. Working within the environment of an international organisation such as the UNCHR and receiving exceptional guidance has given me much more confidence about applying for human rights positions after I graduate.

“UNHCR looks for interns who are able to make a contribution to the work of the United Nations while pursuing their own academic or vocational interests. The Regional Office particularly enjoyed hosting this student as a result of her quick intelligence and her commitment to her work as well as her idealistic but practical and disciplined approach to her subject”

(Ellen Hansen, Internship Supervisor)

Noa Sheer and UNIFEM Australia


My role at UNIFEM Australia was mainly to add to the organisation's human rights information bank by compiling online resources, factsheets and summaries on a variety of issues relating to women's rights. Aside from this I was requested to submit on behalf of UNIFEM Australia replies to the Australian government inquiries on the effectiveness of the Sex Discrimination Act (1984) and the draft periodic report to the Committee on the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

I later developed a research project entitled 'Are Indigenous Women Enjoying the Rights Conferred in CEDAW?' This paper argued that the implementation of one treaty is often intertwined with and dependent on the implementation of another. For example, the successful implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) inherently relies on the adequate implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination (CERD) and the equal treatment of Indigenous people in Australia.

I found the internship to be valuable in many ways. It was a fantastic opportunity to put human rights theory into practice and to test my own knowledge and research abilities. It also allowed me to gain insight into the work of a human rights organisation in Australia.

“Students who complete a human rights internship will have tangible experience which they can use when applying for jobs later in their careers. Noa wrote a significant submission to the Government review of the Sex Discrimination Act. This submission and the research undertaken to put it together contributed to UNIFEM’s policy agenda and was sent to New York”

(July McKay, Internship Supervisor)

Claudia Guinness and Amnesty International Australia


I undertook my internship at Amnesty International Australia, working on the ‘Human Rights Act for Australia’ campaign. The aim of my internship was to write Amnesty International’s draft submission to the Government on why Australia should have a Human Rights Act. The internship role also included on-line blogging, research, and cross team campaign development.

The academic project I developed from my internship came from Amnesty International’s call for a Human Rights Act to be overarching, and include all people in Australia, not just Australian citizens; specifically, ‘An Analysis of Australia’s International Obligations to Refugees: Would a Human Rights Act help Achieve greater Human Rights Protection’. The research paper looked at Australia’s responsibility to refugees domestically and internationally. It acknowledged the gaps in Australia’s current human rights protection for Refugees, including a case study on Mandatory detention, and suggested that the introduction of an overarching Human Rights Act would actively re-affirm Australia’s obligation to protecting Refugees.

Undertaking the internship program gave me on the ground experience that is not available in a classroom. Being part of an active human rights organization allowed me to combine theory and practice in an active human rights environment, and to develop a greater understanding of what is involved in working in the industry. The opportunity to work with Amnesty International Australia was an invaluable and inspiring experience that has set the foundations for my human rights career.

Sarah Farrelly and the UNHCR Regional Office for Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and the South Pacific


During my month interning with UNHCR, I researched a challenging current area of refugee law; assessing whether Australian refugee laws are in fact meeting the state’s international human rights law obligations. As well as carrying out this research, I got involved in the day-to-day activities of UNHCR, observing the diverse roles carried out by its small number of employees. I was very fortunate that my internship fell at a time when the Regional Office was preparing for a visit from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres. Meeting and speaking with Mr Guterres was definitely a highlight of my intern experience.

Following my month interning with UNHCR, I developed a detailed research project entitled “Complementary Protection in Australia: Filling the gap in the protection of asylum seekers”, focusing on Australia’s proposal for new legislation in immigration law and assessing whether it would be sufficient to meet the State’s international obligations. I then compared this with the system developed by the EU in a recent Directive.

The internship was a fantastic insight into the work done by a Regional Office of a large UN organisation. It has greatly encouraged me to apply for jobs in this area, after seeing the hard work carried out by these organisations which is both challenging and varied. While in Canberra I also applied and was accepted for a UNESCO Human Rights International Youth Training Programme at the University of Connecticut. It takes place in Connecticut each August for two weeks, and is a fantastic opportunity for youth, who are involved in the field of human rights in their community, to meet up with other like-minded youth from across the globe. During the ten days of the forum there are seminars and training courses from experienced human rights practitioners, who provide an invaluable insight into the skills and expertise needed to work in this area. We also attended the UN Headquarters in New York City for the day, which was of course very exciting! I would also highly recommend this fantastic programme to any youth interested in working in human rights.

"UNHCR's Regional Office in Canberra was delighted to host Sarah Farelly from the University of Sydney's Masters of Human Rights programme in February 2010. UNHCR likes to host students who can contribute to the substantive work of the organisation while meeting their own academic interests and needs. Sarah chose a particularly topical issue to research, Australia's codification of human rights obligations in a complementary protection regime, and her research contributed to the Office's consideration of that issue. Sarah not only contributed through her considerable research skills, but also through helping with the day-to-day work of the Office at a particularly busy time, in the lead up to the High Commissioner's visit to Australia and New Zealand. Sarah was at all times professional, mature and pleasant to work with, and became very much a part of 'the team'."

(Ellen Hansen, Internship Supervisor)

Octavia Davidson and AID/WATCH


My internship placement was at AID/WATCH. My project was to write a paper on land reform in PNG and Vanuatu, with a focus on how aid is being used for purposes that are counteractive to promoting human rights. While in my placement, and later through continued volunteer work with AID/WATCH, I assisted with other tasks including updating the website, additional research, and organising a fundraising/awareness event on the issue of land reform in Melanesia.

For my academic project I chose to look further into the topic of land reform in PNG, exploring how women specifically are affected in PNG. The title of my project was “The Effectiveness of Aid in Development in Relation to Women’s Rights; A Case Study on Land Reform in Papua New Guinea.” The report explored the relation between aid effectiveness and development and applied this to the case study to demonstrate how aid that does not fully incorporate the experiences of women can actually have negative impacts on the human rights of women, and therefore is detrimental to development on a whole.

The internship was a great way to obtain first-hand experience that can’t be taught in a classroom and gain an understanding of how NGOs operate. The academic component was very intense in the level of support provided, assisting with research and writing skills that will benefit me in a professional setting.

[[“AID/WATCH looks for people with a passion for social and environmental justice; activism; and a desire to put their research and analytical skills to use in a campaign and watchdog context. Octavia contributed to a great number of campaign and organisational areas going beyond her research project on land reform. Her commitment, organisational and research skills strengthened the formation of our Pacific land rights campaign and resulted in some great information resources and a successful public outreach event”

(Lara Daley, Internship Supervisor)]]

Paul Duffill and the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies


My internship was on peace journalism and community-based internet media. My project was to expand the Wikipedia “stub” on peace journalism to full encyclopaedic coverage of the topic. I worked at the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, at the University of Sydney. My responsibilities included forming a foundation of understanding of the core concepts and practices of Peace Journalism and keeping up to date on recent developments in theory and especially application. This also included assimilating the wide range of theoretical insights and debates on peace journalism with a wide range of real world media projects. Most importantly, my role was also to present this information in a way that was engaging and accessible for general media audiences.

The title of my internship was ‘A Pwiki Problem: How can a full-length Wikipedia article about Peace Journalism serve as a normative educational resource for a variety of sectors of general media audiences including academics, trainers, educators, journalists, other media professionals?’ This involved an outline of peace journalism theory and practice and how this material might be presented to engage readers across general media audience groups. The project outlined the importance of general media audiences for peace journalism, and how a Wikipedia could function to engage with these audiences. Wikipedia article could function as an “information and organisation gateway”, while also outlining the theory, practice and debates surrounding peace journalism that might be particularly relevant for general audiences.

I am really glad I took the plunge and got involved with this internship. It enabled me to deal with the practical concerns of the meeting between peace journalism, general media audiences, and the community based media which have become such an integral part of modern communication.

[[“The main quality I look for in an intern at CPACS is to be a self-starter. Paul Duffill showed outstanding individual initiative to create an invaluable resource: a Wikipedia page on peace journalism. He was responsible, and mixed well with others in the CPACS community, which is equally important to me. The page Paul created is useful to academic researchers and a broad spectrum of practitioners alike. I am already directing people to it, who email enquiries to me as to where they can find out more about the subject. In this respect, the absence, previously, of such a page from Wikipedia was a significant lacuna, and Paul has done a very useful job in filling it.”

(Jake Lynch, Internship Supervisor)]]

Dalila Gharbaoui and the UNHCR Regional Office for Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea & the South Pacific


Work assigned during my time at the UNHCR focussed mainly on the development of a research project on the Conditions for Sustainable Relocation as Adaptive Response to Climate Change in the Pacific Island Countries and Territories. To do so I first became familiar with recent UN literature on the topic and engaged UNHCR staff for guidance. I also attended related seminars that also helped me to understand the current discussions and global agenda related to regional environmental displacement issues.

My research project for the course was on “The implications of Land Rights in planning for Sustainable Relocation as an adaptive response to Climate Change in the Pacific Islands Countries and Territories”. I tried to critically engage with Land Rights and Sustainable development issues in the context of climate change and attempted to understand to what extent are Land Rights key to forming a sustainable, adaptive response to Climate Change through population resettlement in the Pacific region.

This issue was examined during my Internship Research Project’s creation. One key conclusion of this research was related to the importance of understanding Land Rights and Land Tenure in planning for Sustainable Relocation processes, and that the relocation process is likely to be unsuccessful if it lacks the important local specificities and the essential link between Islanders and their land. It was therefore particularly interesting to engage my time exclusively with Land Rights through this research project, which was particularly relevant to my course focus areas which required that we analyse and critique the experience gained during the internship placement.

The experience was fantastic; I was able to combine in a meaningful way theoretical, academic learning and at the same time practically engage with ‘the field’. Learning through exposure to the field helped me to have a practical understanding and skills that have strongly reinforced my Academic pursuits and experience. I would advise this programme to anyone thinking of working in this field. It gave me the chance to learn and discover different aspects of working as a human rights practitioner in conjunction with the related specific body of literature. It helped me to contemplate, if not, direct, my future career choices and understand better what I would be interested in pursuing in the field. Finally it gave me more confidence by exposing my practical skills to an esteemed and active work environment to better understand what skills I might need to strengthen and focus on as a future human rights practitioner.

“In its collaboration with the University of Sydney's Master of Human Rights Program, UNHCR's Regional Office in Canberra seeks to give students an opportunity to apply human rights theory to very real displacement problems. Dalila Gharbaoui undertook research into sustainable relocation as an adaptive response to climate change in the Pacific. This research will feed into UNHCR's own policy development in response to climate change issues in this region and constitutes a valuable source of information.”

(Ellen Hansen, Internship Supervisor)

Susy Lee and Youth Peace Intiative


I spent a semester working with Youth Peace Initiative (YPI), part of Sydney Peace Foundation, which engages young people in the process of building peace with justice in their schools and communities, empowering them to feel that their actions make a difference. My major role was to act as mentor to three school groups. Two groups sprang from Student Representative Councils and one from a legal studies class that had a strong human rights emphasis. The groups met at lunchtime and each identified issues they could meaningfully address.

My academic project was to develop a rationale for the YPI model of peace education, by showing how critical pedagogy addresses the main characteristics important for peace education with youth. My research was then included in the YPI operations manual.

The internship gave me a good understanding of peace education, including its practical constraints, and has inspired me with the possibilities available to support youth in their passion for peace and human rights. In the process, I also gained a useful understanding of the nature of academic research.

“The human rights masters internship program was an ideal fit for our organisation as it enabled us to substantially develop our high school outreach program by drawing on the expertise and energy of our intern, Susy Lee. Susy's ability to communicate the relevance of human rights to the lived experience of Australian youth was essential for her mentoring work with the students, while her critical analytical and research skills proved invaluable in the drafting of key policy and best practice and pedagogy guidelines for our organisation. An outstanding program and I look forward to working with our next placement.”

(Trent Newman, Internship Supervisor)