10 April 2012

Around 170 young Australians will spend a day learning about the complex issues surrounding humanitarian law (the law of armed conflict), forced migration and seeking asylum at a conference hosted by The University of Queensland's TC Beirne School of Law on Friday 13 April.

Entitled 'Boats, Camps and Barbed Wire Fences - Forced Migration and the Law', the conference has been organised by UQ's Asylum and Refugee Law Project (ARLP) with support from the Office for Prospective Students, Scholarships and Student Equity in the lead-up to the University's annual Diversity Week events.

UQ's Diversity Week (2012) provides an opportunity to consider how to address key problems facing humanity by creating dialogue across boundaries, and harnessing the strengths of diverse perspectives, worldviews and knowledge in seeking to find unity through diversity of views.

Co-director of the UQ Pro Bono Centre, ALRP Supervisor and Senior Lecturer in Law, Dr Peter Billings said the conference will promote understanding and awareness of humanitarian law principles, the complexities of forced migration, refugee law and asylum seeker policy, among high school students.

"People who have experienced forced migration first hand will convey directly to the students the realities and challenges of seeking refugee protection, including the refugee status determination processes in Australia, life in immigration detention and so forth, in order to develop greater understanding of why people come to Australia and what it's like to come to Australia as a refugee," Dr Billings said.

Through a combination of keynote lectures, workshops and a storytelling session, students will engage with the global, regional and local dimensions of refugee and humanitarian law issues.

"I think, at times, it will be a fairly confronting experience for the students and I think it is very important that they hear directly from people who have experienced forced migration as well as law and policy experts," Dr Billings said.

The ARLP is a student-led initiative operating under the auspices of The University of Queensland Pro Bono Centre and was the winner of the 2011 Vice-Chancellors Equity and Diversity award of $10,000.

"We decided to reinvest the prize in community education and this event will provide an opportunity to reach out to a large cohort of Queensland's youth."

Dr Billings said he was very pleased with the response to the event which has reached its maximum capacity and that he hopes to organise similar events on a more regular basis in the future.

"We are thrilled to have high school students coming from across the region, from the sunshine coast to the gold coast, and as far away as Gladstone, despite them being on holiday."

The day will conclude with a panel discussion and an interactive Q&A session chaired by Paul Barclay from ABC Radio National's 'Big Ideas' program.

The session is open to the public and will be recorded for future broadcast.

In addition to Dr Billings, the discussion panel will comprise the Regional Director of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees Rick Towle, Red Cross Humanitarian Law Officer Eve Massingham and Bobby Whitfield.

Event details

Date: Friday 13 April 2012

Time: 9:00am till 4:30pm
(At 3:30pm the event will open to the public for the ABC Radio National 'Big Ideas' panel discussion.)

Venue: The UQ Centre, The University of Queensland St Lucia Campus

Cost: This is a free event


Dr Peter Billings (07 3365 7176, p.billings@law.uq.edu.au) or Melissa Reynolds (07 3365 2523, m.reynolds@law.uq.edu.au).