Strengthening Human Rights Abroad

By Andrea Olivares Jones

The Castan Centre has this year been delighted to continue our multi-year cooperative project with Vietnam National University (VNU) School of Law to promote and strengthen human rights education abroad. The project has seen the Castan Centre attend the Vietnam-Australia Human Rights Dialogue in 2018, host an Australian educational tour for our colleagues from VNU, and send our academics to Hanoi to develop and co-teach comprehensive subjects on contemporary human rights issues. 

HUMAN RIGHTS DIALOGUE

This project first saw Castan Centre academics attend the 2018 Vietnam-Australia Human Rights Dialogue in Hanoi. 

The Centre was represented in Hanoi by our Director, Sarah Joseph and Deputy Director Julie Debeljak, who were invited to participate in a side-program along with VNU Law School counterparts Dr La Tung and Dr Ngo Minh Huong, VNU Law students, and a representative from the Vietnamese Ministry of Foriegn Affairs. The Castan Centre presented an overview of the cooperation project to the DFAT delegation, whilst our colleagues and students from VNU shared their experience with the project. 

Following the side-event, our Director also presented a paper to a regional human rights conference in Da Nang, which was attended by regional government bodies, not for profit organisations and focused on gender equality, disability and social Inclusion for vulnerable groups. In particular, the presentation explored Australia’s experience implementing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with a Disability, the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The session was followed by an engaging Q&A.

AUSTRALIA EDUCATIONAL TRIP

In May this year we had the pleasure of welcoming our colleagues from VNU to strengthen connections between the human rights communities in Australia and Vietnam. 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. The visit involved educational sessions on the latest teaching techniques at Monash University, as well as numerous site visits in Melbourne and Sydney. 

The delegation enjoyed visiting Victoria’s Department of Justice, the Coroner’s Court and the Judicial College of Victoria. As Vietnam does not yet have a human rights institution, our guests had many questions for the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission and Australian Human Rights Commission in Sydney.  They also had the opportunity to visit the Victorian Electoral Commission to learn about Australia’s 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.

HANOI TEACHING TRIP

In July and August, our Director, Sarah Joseph, along with Deputy Director Joanna Kyriakis and Castan Centre Associates Heli Askola and Jean Allain had the opportunity to travel to Hanoi and teach students undertaking a Masters in Human Rights at VNU School of Law. 

Working closely with our esteemed colleagues from VNU, Dr Ngo Minh Huong, Dr La Khanh Tung and Assoc Prof Giao Cong Vu, our academics developed engaging units that covered human rights, international humanitarian law, human rights and terrorism, humanitarian intervention, international criminal law, and regional human rights laws and mechanisms. Each class was designed to incorporate important gender equality, disability and social inclusion considerations, and encouraged critical analysis of current human rights frameworks and real-world cases.

Our academics adopted the innovative ‘flipped classroom’ approach which gave students the opportunity to actively discuss important contemporary human rights issues and collaborate on tasks, encouraging peer learning. VNU students adapted to and embraced the learning model throughout the units, showcasing an impressive understanding of human rights both within the context of the Asia-Pacific and further abroad. 

Both academics and students were fortunate to be able to learn from one another, exchanging expertise, ideas, and discussing possible solutions to some of the world’s most pressing human rights challenges. This included a lively discussion of a range of issues such as freedom of religion, the protection of refugees and asylum seekers, and human rights centric responses to terrorism. 

Our Castan Centre colleagues enjoyed the hospitality of the VNU academics and students. The usual social lunch with their VNU academic counterparts and the VNU students gave them all an opportunity to connect outside of the classroom. The delivery of these units brought to a conclusion the Human Rights Collaboration undertaken by the Castan Centre and VNU, a program which was made possible through the support of the Department of Foreign Affairs ‘Aus4Skills’ initiative. 

The collaboration has been a great success, enabling the support of students’ learning and knowledge of human rights, the strengthening of VNU-SL’s Masters of Human Rights course, and the exchange of ideas and expertise between human rights professionals from Australia and Vietnam. Most importantly, the program has seen the development of a strong and enduring relationship with our overseas partner, as we all continue to advocate for the importance of human rights into the future. 

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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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