May has been busy time for us here at the Castan Centre, with many different programs in train, but undoubtedly the highlight was the visit by our colleagues from Vietnam National University School of Law.

The visit formed part of a multi-year cooperative project between the Castan Centre and VNU. Under this program, the Castan Centre is assisting VNU to update and deliver the syllabus of four comprehensive subjects that reflect current human rights issues. It involves upgrading, skills development, co-teaching and mentoring.

This project has seen the Centre’s staff attend the 2018 Vietnam Australia Human Rights Dialogue in Hanoi, and will see them attend the 2019 event in Canberra later this year.

The Australia trip was designed to strengthen connections between the human rights communities in Australia and Vietnam. It involved educational sessions on the latest teaching techniques at Monash University, as well as numerous site visits in Melbourne and Sydney.

The delegation of esteemed guests, Dr Bui Tien Dat, Dr Ngo Minh Huong, Ms Nguyen Thuy Duong and Mr Nguyen Anh Duc had a strong focus on government engagement while in the country.

They visited Victoria’s Department of Justice, the Coroner’s Court and the Judicial College of Victoria. As Vietnam does not yet have a national human rights institution, the delegation had a lot of questions for the the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission and and the Australian Human Rights Commission in Sydney. They were also lucky to be able to visit the  the Victorian Electoral Commission to learn about our democratic process just weeks before the federal election.

The program prioritises the thematic issues of gender equality, social inclusion and disability, so the delegation visited many of the leading organisations in the sector, including the Disability Discrimination Legal Service, Domestic Violence Victoria, Justice Connect and the Human Rights Law Centre. And, of course, a human rights visit to Australia would not be complete without learning about the issues facing our First Nations People. We were fortunate to be able to organise visits to the Koori Heritage Trust in Melbourne and the Aboriginal Legal Service in Sydney.

After a week of non-stop action, our visitors hopped back onto the plane with many ideas of how to strengthen human rights protections in Vietnam. It was a sad farewell, but luckily four of our academics will see them later this year when they travel to Hanoi to teach the next two instalments of the program to VNU Masters students.

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