Australian Human Rights Institute to welcome new director in 2021

Justine Nolan standing on the UNSW Kensington Campus mall.

The Australian Human Rights Institute at UNSW Sydney will welcome a new director next year, with Scientia Professor Louise Chappell concluding her role as the inaugural director, and Professor Justine Nolan appointed to the position from 1 January 2021.

Professor Chappell will continue working on her research agenda on gender and human rights in the new year. As the inaugural director of the Australian Human Rights Institute, Professor Chappell took up the challenge of working on human rights with all of the UNSW Faculties and growing its research into more interdisciplinary directions. In three years under Professor Chappell’s leadership, the Institute has achieved this, opening discussion on human rights to a broader audience and changing the shape and breadth of human rights research at UNSW.

Since its launch in March 2018, the Institute has branched out to have researchers from every UNSW Faculty working on human rights projects related to gender justice, health and business. It operates two publications, supports a post-doctoral fellow and 10 PhD candidates and has an advisory board of high-profile Australians from the arts, business and sport. Pre-COVID, it even managed a cross-campus choir.

The Institute’s research has expanded into new frontiers such as human rights and sport, and human rights in the built environment. Professor Chappell has led a program with global reach, from international events such as the 2019 Innovate Rights Conference, where former prime minister Julia Gillard was keynote speaker, to fellowships for young human rights defenders from Southeast Asia. The Institute has developed strong collaborations with other universities, most recently co-hosting a conference on the Beijing Platform for Action with Professor Hilary Charlesworth and the University of Melbourne.

In 2020, the Institute won a UNSW COVID-19 Rapid Response grant for cross-faculty research into women’s experiences of the pandemic, and a generous philanthropic donation to analyse sex and gender in medical research, with partners at The George Institute for Global Health. Last month, Professor Chappell and colleagues Dr Rosemary Grey and Dr Kcasey McLoughlin were successful for an ARC Discovery Project, Reimagining Judging in International Criminal Courts: A Gendered Approach. Professor Chappell’s commitment to gender justice over many years saw her named one of the Australian Financial Review 100 Women of Influence in 2019.

While leading the Institute, Professor Chappell has also remained a dedicated supervisor and trusted mentor to younger scholars and has provided invaluable guidance to the professional staff in her team, promoting their career development and aspirations.

Professor Justine Nolan will begin as the Institute’s Director in January 2021 and is looking forward to building on the foundation which Professor Chappell and her team at the Institute have established, to continue its outstanding research and advocacy work.

Professor Nolan joined UNSW Law in 2004 after more than a decade spent in practice as an international human rights lawyer and corporate lawyer. Her experience as both a human rights scholar and practitioner is broad and her work is notable for its approach that melds theory with practice and is deeply rooted in social engagement, which is particularly well suited to the interdisciplinary foundation of the Institute.

Professor Nolan’s work on business and human rights, and more recently, on modern slavery, has played a key role in achieving national and international reform. Her recent co-authored book, Addressing Modern Slavery, examines how modern slavery is surviving and thriving in global supply chains. For more than 25 years, Professor Nolan has worked closely with civil society, government and companies on human rights issues and has advised governments, UN bodies and industry on how to progress human rights.