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Human Rights Watch


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In the past year alone, we’ve seen escalating international refugee crises, millions of people caught amidst conflict and violence from Syria to South Sudan, and innumerable atrocities committed by armed groups and states — the global response to which has been deemed ineffective at best. Australia’s own treatment of asylum seekers has also been shown to breach multiple international human rights conventions.

How do we exercise, assert and defend human rights when they’re under threat from so many angles?

In this edition of the Fifth Estate, host Sally Warhaft will speak with Tom Porteous, deputy program director at Human Rights Watch (Washington DC) and Julian Burnside, human rights and refugee advocate, about how we can form effective responses to human rights breaches.

What international emergencies and war zones are the current focus of Human Rights Watch, and why? What are the emerging trends and challenges in human rights advocacy, both globally and locally? And with Australia’s chequered record — from Terra Nullius to widespread institutionalised abuse to immigration policy, and a prime minister who is ‘sick of being lectured to by the UN’ — what clout do we wield in the global arena?


Follow the discussion on Twitter with #FifthEstate.


Sally Warhaft

Sally Warhaft is a Melbourne broadcaster, anthropologist and writer. She is the host of The Fifth Estate, the Wheeler Centre’s live series focusing on journalism, politics, media, and international relations, and The Leap Year, a Wheeler Centre podcast about Australians’ lives in the fog of ... Read more

Tom Porteous

Tom Porteous is the deputy program director at Human Rights Watch and is based in Washington DC. He joined Human Rights Watch in 2006 as the London director responsible for communications and advocacy in the United Kingdom. Porteous has a background in journalism, diplomacy, and UN peacekeeping. In ... Read more

Julian Burnside

Julian Burnside is a Melbourne barrister. He joined the Bar in 1976 and took silk in 1989. He specialises in commercial litigation, and has acted in many very contentious cases – the MUA Waterfront dispute; the Cash-for-Comment enquiry; cases for Alan Bond and Rose Porteous – but has be... Read more


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