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Castan Centre for Human Rights Law

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The Castan Centre for Human Rights Law is a research centre located within the Monash University Law Faculty in Victoria, Australia. It was established in 2000 to meet the need for, and interest in, the study of human rights law globally, regionally and in Australia. It grew rapidly to become the largest research centre in the Monash Law School. It is the preeminent human rights centre in the Asia-Pacific region, and is one of Australia's most respected human rights monitoring organisations. Its function is to bring together the work of national and international human rights scholars, practitioners and advocates from a wide range of disciplines in order to promote and protect human rights.


The Centre is named after Ron Castan, AM QC (1939-1999), a distinguished barrister who was a prominent advocate of human rights. His daughter, Melissa Castan, is Deputy Director of the Centre.


The Centre's main activities are research, teaching, public education (lectures, seminars, conferences, parliamentary submissions, internships and media presentations), applied research, advice work, policy work and consultancies.

Teaching and research

In teaching, it offers Australia's only Master of Laws in Human Rights. In collaboration with law firm Holding Redlich, it runs the Holding Redlich Distinguished Visiting Fellowship Program, which attracts human rights experts from around the world to give public lectures on key human rights issues. Recent Fellows include Justice Richard Goldstone (2009), Justice Thomas Buergenthal (2009), Kirsty Sword Gusmão (2008) and Professor Peter Russell (2006). Additionally, Monash students and staff and the general public enjoy regular lectures by prominent human rights academics and advocates hosted by the Centre, with recent guest speakers including prominent barrister Julian Burnside QC, East Timor President Dr José Ramos-Horta, the Dalai Lama, former British first lady Cherie Booth QC, Indigenous Australians Senator Aden Ridgeway and Noel Pearson, former Minister for Foreign Affairs Alexander Downer MP and Prime Minister of Australia Kevin Rudd MP. The Centre administers numerous student internships enabling Monash undergraduate students to work at the United Nations Human Rights Council, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the Khmer Rouge trials.

Castan Centre staff undertake and publish extensive research in a wide range of areas related to human rights. To this end, it has received extensive funding from both government and non-government organisations, as well as some private industry sponsorship. Some of the Centre's past projects have included an investigation into the role of the World Trade Organisation in promoting human rights, and the human rights responsibilities of multinational corporations.

Consultancy and training

In its advisory and consultancy capacity, it advises and produces research papers for a range of human rights-related organisations, such as the World Bank, the World Organisation Against Torture, the Indonesian Ministries of Justice and Finance, the Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Castan Centre staff have also been retained to conduct training and advice in some of the worlds human rights troublespots, such as Yangon in Burma.

Management and governance

The Centre is guided and governed by an Advisory Board which consists of several notable legal practitioners and researchers. Current members of the Board include:

  • Professor Philip Alston - Professor of Law at New York University
  • Professor Virginia Dandan - Chairperson of the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
  • Patrick Dodson - Advocate for Indigenous Australians, founder of the Lingiari Foundation
  • The Hon. Elizabeth Evatt AC - Former Chief Judge of the Family Court of Australia, President of the Australian Law Reform Commission, Chair of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), Vice-Chair of the United Nations Human Rights Committee, Judge of the World Bank Administrative Tribunal, Commissioner of the International Committee of Jurists
  • Professor Claudio Grossman - Dean of the Washington College of Law
  • Judge Felicity Hampel SC - prominent human rights lawyer, Judge of the County Court of Victoria
  • Justice Michael Kirby AC - former Justice of the High Court of Australia
  • Professor Christopher Weeramantry - Former Judge and Vice-President of the International Court of Justice
  • The current Director of the Castan Centre is human rights scholar Professor Sarah Joseph. She replaced Founding Director Professor David Kinley, who served until 2005. Joseph is best known internationally for her work on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

    The Centre has 5 Deputy Directors. The Deputy Directors are academic staff members of the Monash University Law Faculty and are responsible (with the Director) for the management of the Castan Centre:

  • Dr Julie Debeljak
  • Ms Melissa Castan
  • Assistant Professor Paula Gerber (also President of Kaleidoscope Australia Human Rights Foundation)
  • Professor Susan Kneebone
  • Dr Adam McBeth
  • The Castan Centre also has a number of Associates:

  • Dr Heli Askola
  • Associate Professor Gideon Boas
  • Ms Azadeh Dastyari
  • Dr Patrick Emerton
  • Dr Stephen Gray
  • Ms Tania Penovic
  • Dr Joanna Kyriakakis
  • David Yarrow
  • The Castan Centre has three full-time staff members, the Centre Manager, Project Officer and Centre Administrator.


    Castan Centre for Human Rights Law Wikipedia