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Sarah Joseph

2002 Visiting Academic
Home site: Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, Monash University, Melbourne

By Pat McGroarty
August 3, 2004


1. What was your role at the Human Rights Center, or your involvement with the Human Rights Center?

“I was a visiting academic from the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University, Melbourne and was hosted by the Minnesota Human Rights Center on my sabbatical from August through December of 2002. I was very well looked after by Prof. David Weissbrodt, Kristi Rudelius-Palmer, and the rest of the staff.”

2. How did you learn about the Human Rights Center, and how did working with the Center fit in with your academic or career goals?

“The Center’s Human Rights Website is one of the best human rights resources on the web or anywhere else. I knew of the Center through that site, which is indispensable to my work as a human rights academic. In 1999 I met David Weissbrodt at a colloquium in Rotterdam and we have kept in contact.”

3. What sparked your interest in human rights issues and led you to pursue working in that field?

“The answer is a bit mundane, I’m afraid. I was in the United Kingdom doing a Masters Degree and did not want to go home to a commercial law job. So, I got a job at the University of Nottingham editing a book on the U.K. and human rights. Whilst there, I realized I loved academic human rights work. I have also always had an interest in international politics and international affairs, of which human rights are a key component. Just before I found out I got the job in Nottingham I visited Auschwitz, which brought home to me how much I wanted the job because of what it was about, rather than because it was an ‘escape’ from commercial law.”

4. What human rights issues are particularly important to you? How do you hope to effect a change in those issues?

“If I had to prioritize, I think the lack of understanding and misrepresentation of human rights is important and concerning to me. For example, why is it bad in the United States to be a member of the ACLU, or to be called a ‘liberal?’ The same marginalization of human rights issues also arises in Australia. I hope to effect change by disseminating and advocating the benefits of a human rights approach, to tear down the myths about human rights that have been perpetuated by sectors like right-wing media (e.g. Fox News), even mainstream media,. and the Bush and Howard (Australia) administrations.”

5. What work are you currently doing in the human rights arena and how did your time at the Human Rights Center effect that position?

“I am the acting director of the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law. I am also a senior lecturer in law, with specialization in human rights and Australian Constitutional Law. During my sabbatical at Minnesota, I wrote most of a book that is to be published this week. This book is one plank upon which I have based an application (submitted at the end of July) for promotion in my faculty.”

6. What does the term “human rights” mean to you?

“The rights one needs in order to enjoy a dignified life or a life worth living. It also means respect for the rights of others to enjoy the same.”

7. What advice would you have for someone hoping to pursue a career in human rights advocacy?

“It’s a different situation in Australia than in the U.S.A. There are not as many ‘legal’ outlets, as we lack a bill of rights and a vigorous rights culture. I would recommend that people work with corporations as human rights consultants to try to effect change withing these very important agents for good.”

8. Where do you see your interest in human rights taking you? How do you hope to incorporate human rights awareness into your future career and life?

“At the moment, I see myself staying in Academia and hopefully becoming a professor one day. I would also hope to continue international consultancy work and perhaps gain some United Nations experience, either paid or unpaid.”


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