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The Treatment of Asylum Seekers and Refugees

Deakin Law School welcomes former High Court Justice, Hon. Michael Kirby

Former Justice of the High Court, the Honourable Michael Kirby AC CMG, will be the special guest of the Deakin Law School’s (DLS) Centre on the Legal Profession on Thursday 17 August at the Deakin Melbourne Burwood Campus.

Delivering a presentation on ‘The Treatment of Asylum Seekers and Refugees’, Mr Kirby will examine questions around the distinctions between detention and punishment. When does detention turn into punishment so that it can only be imposed by a judge? Have conditions in Nauru or Manus deteriorated to the extent that continued detention will require a judicial order? How does one draw the distinction between mandatory immigration detention and punishment in practice?

Mr Kirby holds a long association with the Deakin Law School. He was appointed an adjunct professor in 2009, has delivered numerous addresses to Deakin staff and students – including the Deakin Law School Oration – and has also worked collaboratively with DLS researchers.

‘I am proud to be an honorary graduate of Deakin Law School.  I applaud the engagement of Deakin in an international outreach.  On this visit, I will be addressing a course of senior government lawyers from Sri Lanka.  It is a tribute to Australia and Deakin University that they engage with us about issues of common interest.  We share a legal tradition and many common problems.  I will also be addressing law students on one of the big legal challenges facing Australia itself.  I refer to the outsourcing of processing refugee applicants who claim protection from Australia under the Refugees Convention.  Sending such people to other countries is not compliant with the obligations we have agreed to honour under the Convention.  Justices of the High Court have been warning that lengthy ‘detention’ may eventually amount to ‘punishment’ which can only be imposed by independent judges.  Our treatment of refugee applicants is an example of the failure of the Australian legal system to provide clear access to the courts by those who claim denial of universal human rights.  Law students, as the guardians of the law in the future, must understand that their profession has an unavoidable obligation to defend and uphold human rights.’

When he retired from the High Court of Australia in 2009, Justice Kirby was Australia’s longest serving judge. In addition to a long and respected judicial career, he has served on many national and international bodies, held appointments with numerous universities and is highly recognised for his ongoing work in global health, social justice and human rights.

This is a rare opportunity to hear one of Australia’s most distinguished and influential jurists who continues to richly contribute to justice, law reform and equality.