Human rights internship program to be established

Tuesday, 21 January 2003

A University of Adelaide law lecturer will capitalise on her Canadian experience to establish an International and Human Rights Law Internship Program for the University's Law School.

Ms Laura Grenfell said the idea for the program was influenced by her experience at the University of Toronto Law School that set up and funded her three-month internship with the leading US human rights organization, Human Rights Watch, in New York in late 2001.

"During my internship I helped write and research a report on the position of women in Afghanistan," she said, adding that North America's leading law schools currently offer similar internship programs.

Ms Grenfell said that during the process of creating the internship program, she learned that the International Committee for the Red Cross in Geneva was recruiting interns. This subsequently led to recent University of Adelaide law graduate Ms Letitia Anderson being offered a prestigious 12-month stint with the Geneva-based organization. Ms Anderson begins her internship on February 10.

"While attempting to establish the internship program, I was assisted by Dr Judith Gardam, the University's Law School Reader in International Law, who has contacts with the International Committee for the Red Cross in Geneva.

"We inquired whether the Red Cross took interns and the Red Cross offered to interview our best candidate while one of their representatives was visiting Australia in December," Ms Grenfell explained.

"We advertised the Red Cross internship, as well as two other internship positions, to the international and human rights law students. Ms Anderson was chosen for the interview because of her academic record, including her outstanding honours thesis on international law -- which received the highest mark -- her fluency in French and her community involvement."

Ms Grenfell said that internships supplement students' theoretical understanding of international and human rights law by giving them a practical appreciation of the operation of these areas of law.

"Students spend two to three months at an organization, researching and writing reports, also participating in the organization's daily activities.

"It is very difficult for students to gain this experience in South Australia as there are very few international and human rights law organizations in the State. This means that students have to travel to, and live in expensive cities such as Geneva and New York," she said.

Ms Grenfell said the University now has two other students currently enrolled in the internships program this year.

"Ms Emma Leske, will be travelling to Geneva in March to intern with the Australian Mission to the United Nations in Geneva for two months while Australia is sitting on the Human Rights Commission. And Sarah Callaghan will be spending three months interning with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Cairo.

"We're hoping that when Emma and Sarah return, they will be able to contribute to the South Australian community through their experience and the skills they gained," Ms Grenfell said.

In order to assist students with the high accommodation costs as well as the travel costs, the University of Adelaide Law School has set up the Dame Roma Mitchell scholarship for students in the program.

Dame Roma was a leading advocate for human rights in Australia. This scholarship has been made possible by one of the Law School's alumni and has been partially funded by the proceeds from the sale of "Dame Roma - Glimpses of a Glorious Life", published through the John Bray Law Chapter of the Alumni Association.

"We are searching for additional funding so as to give more students the exciting opportunity to undertake an internship," Ms Grenfell said.


Contact Details

Associate Professor Laura Grenfell
Law School
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5777

Media Team
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 0814