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JD Law Lecturer, Monash Law School
Sarah Joseph is the director of the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law
Named in honour of esteemed lawyer Ron Castan – best known as the lead barrister in the Mabo case – the Castan Centre is the most dynamic human rights law centre in the Asia Pacific region.
When most people think of human rights they tend to think of the disturbing images of refugees in detention centres and transit camps, large scale events such as genocide and child labour.
However, Professor Joseph argues, the field of human rights is actually much broader than what we've come to associate it with, and has relevance much closer to home than we might think.
For example, the importance of adhering to human rights laws is now recognised – though not always implemented – by businesses worldwide. “Human rights is of increasing importance to businesses in all sectors in all countries,” says Professor Joseph. “The costs of ‘getting it wrong’ are enormous in terms of reputation; it can lead to loss of morale, damaging lawsuits or a loss of investment,” she says.
Another unexpected area of life interacting with human rights principles is professional sport. When we view sport anti-doping codes through the prism of human rights laws we see lots of departures from acceptable legal standards, such as mandatory sentencing, strict liability, loss of access to courts and collective punishment. This is the norm for sports people, but it's an outcome that we would find unacceptable in the wider world.
One of Professor Joseph's key interests is to embrace projects that lie outside the traditional remit of academia. Rather than preaching to the converted, she believes that taking the human rights discussion outside the walls of a university and making it real for people will achieve greater influence in the wider world.