Award winner driven by passion for human rights

A life spent in different cultures has led a Monash student and former Castan Centre Global Intern to her recent win of the prestigious Paul Baker Award.

Final year Juris Doctor student, Kylie Pearce, has devoted much of her spare time to promoting human rights, both in Australia and overseas, and is now the first student to win the Law Institute of Victoria’s Paul Baker Award.

Kylie, who moved briefly to Malaysia with her family when she was 13, said her passion for human rights was partially influenced by her experiences there, which exposed her to cultural, religious and social issues quite different to her childhood in Melbourne.

“I realised I was lucky to have the opportunities and lifestyle that I had with my family in Melbourne and I wanted to learn as much as I could so that I could make an impact and empower others to realise their basic human rights,” Kylie said.

Normally awarded to law practitioners, Kylie is the first student to win the award, which recognises significant achievement or outstanding contribution in the field of administrative or human rights law.

“It was an honour to be nominated by the Castan Centre and I feel very fortunate to have won this award,” Kylie said.

Manager of the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, Marius Smith, nominated Kylie for the award for the exceptional work she did during her internship at the Human Rights Advocacy Centre (HRAC) in Accra, Ghana, as part of the Centre’s Global Internship Program.

“It is very impressive that she set up a non-government organisation on her return to Australia that is not only guided by the community she worked in, but is also self-sustaining,” Mr Smith said.

“We were really thrilled for Kylie when we learned that she won the award. She’s had such an outstanding career, despite not yet having finished her degree and she is undoubtedly one of the most accomplished people to complete the program.”

During Kylie’s internship at HRAC, which is dedicated to advancing human rights in Ghana, she worked on a number of projects including drafting the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submission to the UN Human Rights Council as a joint submission with Amnesty International Ghana. She coordinated a team to research human rights issues for the UPR submission, whic included issues around commercial sex workers, refugee rights, gender-based violence, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex rights, mental health and prayer camps, and the death penalty.

Kylie also conducted a fact-finding mission to research recent human rights violations related to unannounced demolitions by the Ghana Police Force, and drafted a report on forced evictions in Ghana.

In Australia, her community involvement has included voluntary work with the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, the Castan Centre (as an in-house intern), the Public Interest Law Clearing House, the Red Cross, the Adult Multicultural Education Service and, more recently, PLAN International and Amnesty International.

This month Kylie will pursue further studies at the Geneva Graduate Institute, studying a Master of Laws in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights. She plans to return to Australia to commence a graduate position in a law firm, where she hopes to combine private practice with pro bono work.

“I believe the legal profession can make a significant contribution to justice for marginalised groups through a strong commitment to pro bono legal assistance,” Kylie said.

“My vision for the world is for people to be able to look past differences of culture, ethnicity, socio-economic status, opinions, religion or gender to see the inherent commonalities that we all share, as we all are first and foremost human beings.”

This article first appeared on the Monash University website. You can read it here. You can read first person blog posts from the Castan Centre’s Global Interns here.  

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Castan Centre

The Castan Centre for Human Rights Law seeks to promote and protect human rights through the generation and dissemination of public scholarship in international and domestic human rights law. In pursuit of this mission, the Centre brings the work of human rights scholars, practitioners and advocates from a wide range of disciplines together in the Centre’s key activities of research, teaching, public education (lectures, seminars, conferences, speeches, media presentations, etc), applied research, advice work and consultancies.

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