Social Justice Fellows to break down barriers for society's most vulnerable

7 March 2014

2014 Fellows

What can frontline social justice workers learn from academics and vice versa? And how can government policy better serve the most vulnerable people in our communities?

Three leading social justice professionals have just begun innovative new fellowships at the University of Sydney, which seeks to answer these questions.

The Sydney Social Justice Network (SSJN) has awarded the new Social Justice Network Community Fellowships to Rivkah Nissim, of the Race Discrimination Team at the Australian Human Rights Commission; Edwina Pickering, a health and community consultant and member of the NSW Guardianship Tribunal; and Solange Frost, senior policy officer at the Council of Social Service of NSW.

Based at the University of Sydney, the fellows will spend the next six months tapping into key research and expertise, while sharing their frontline experience of social justice to shape academic understanding and improve future government policy.

Professor Duncan Ivison, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, says the fellowships demonstrate the SSJN's continuing commitment to groundbreaking research.

"The Social Justice Network Community Fellows program is an innovative and exciting initiative which brings colleagues from partner organisations in civil society and government working on social justice related issues into the university, not only for them to be able to gain access to our research and colleagues within the university, but also for us to learn from them," said Professor Ivison.

"The SSJN is committed to exploring new ways of doing social justice research - building communities of scholarship that break down barriers between theory and practice and promote innovative and groundbreaking research. Great policy comes from great research and great research is deeply informed by practice on the ground."

At the heart of the fellows' research is a determination to improve the government and service outcomes for vulnerable individuals.

Edwina Pickering has nine years' experience in the health and community sectors and a passion for social justice, human rights and ethics. She will research the extent to which health and medical practitioners consider disabled people's human rights in end-of-life decision-making.

"Clinicians, families, and decision-makers don't necessarily know what the rights of a person are. If the person has a disability and can't speak up from themselves then we do need people who do know how to protect those rights," she said.

Solange Frost brings with her specialist expertise in strategic public policy and advocacy. Working for a not-for-profit community sector peak organisation, she has successfully advocated NSW government on health NGO funding reforms.

During her fellowship, she will work on an issues paper and best practice principles for vulnerable and disadvantaged peoples' participation in government policy processes.

"From our perspective, it's really important that there are mechanisms for disadvantaged people to be involved in local decision-making and that some of those barriers can be redressed," said Ms Frost.

Rivkah Nissim is a principal adviser in the Race Discrimination arm of the AHRC. She provides high-level advice to the Race Discrimination Commissioner and has previously managed the national anti-racism campaign, "Racism. It Stops with Me". Her research will investigate effective strategies and resources to support those countering the negative impacts of racism.

"I hope to develop a high quality piece of work that is both academically sound and practically focused that will be of benefit to the university and to my organisation and that will make a strong contribution to our shared social justice objectives," she said.

The SSJN is funded by the Sydney Research Networks Scheme and fosters new knowledge for social change, by nurturing a broad community of social justice researchers within and beyond the University of Sydney.

Further information on the SSJN is available at:

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Contact: Luke O'Neill

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