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Ruth Barson


Ruth Barson has worked to advance the human rights of people enmeshed in the criminal justice system for over a decade. She leads the Human Rights Law Centre’s work advocating for the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and children and adults in jails across Australia.

Ruth’s recent work includes High Court challenges to excessive police lock-up powers; and state and territory Supreme Court challenges to unfair imprisonment and detention laws. Ruth has also led the Centre’s advocacy in relation to youth justice; deaths in custody; inhuman conditions in detention; and racial inequality in the criminal justice system.

Before joining the HRLC, Ruth worked as a senior policy lawyer at the Centre for Innovative Justice where she delivered a comprehensive report on reforming the criminal justice system’s response to sexual assault. Prior to this, Ruth spent over four years working with the Aboriginal Legal Services in Western Australia and in the Northern Territory where she focused on youth justice and prisoner rights. She has also worked as a criminal defence lawyer with Victoria Legal Aid and a legal advisor to government.

Ruth’s international experience includes supporting the work of the Supreme Court Chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia – the United Nations backed court responsible for prosecuting senior members of the Khmer Rouge. She has consulted to Open Society Foundations on strategies to reduce the risk of torture and mistreatment in police custody and received a scholarship to attend Open Society Foundations’ Strategic Human Rights Litigation summer school.

Ruth has a Masters of Laws (with a focus on criminology) from the University of Sydney and a Masters of International Human Rights Law from the University of Oxford. She is currently completing a community research fellowship with the University of Melbourne where she is investigating the over use of solitary confinement in Australia.

Ruth is on the board of the Women’s Legal Service Victoria and is a member of the Law Institute of Victoria’s Human Rights Committee.

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The Wheeler Centre acknowledges the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation as the Traditional Owners of the land on which the Centre stands. We acknowledge and pay our respects to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their Elders, past and present, as the custodians of the world’s oldest continuous living culture.