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Human Rights

King & Wood Mallesons is committed to human rights law. The only large commercial law firm with a dedicated human rights group, we have significant experience advising pro bono clients with human rights issues and successfully acting for them in human rights related disputes.

Human rights law has become increasingly relevant in Australia with the introduction of the Human Rights Act 2004 (ACT) and the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (VIC), and increasing international regulation and monitoring of human rights compliance.

The King & Wood Mallesons Human Rights Law Group (HRLG) operates across the firm, bringing a uniquely national and international perspective to our clients’ matters and offering the latest global insights relevant to human rights issues. To read more about our commercial expertise in human rights law click here.

Our HRLG also makes a meaningful contribution to vulnerable individuals and the community by engaging in cutting-edge human rights law case work and advocacy on a pro bono basis.

The Human Rights Report Card 2013 can be found here.

Recent activities include: 

  • Representing two Sri Lankan refugees finally released after four years in detention following a High Court challenge (click here to read more).
  • Assisting a refugee to win a significant victory in the High Court, after he challenged a process that kept him and his family in indefinite detention (click here to read more).
  • Bringing a challenge in the High Court to the detention of off-shore asylum seekers pending negotiation of the Federal Government’s ‘Malaysia Solution’ with the government of Malaysia.
  • Establishing a public interest litigation clinic partnership with Sydney University Law School, which is a final year your course co-taught by KWM in which students work with faculty members, KWM solicitors and barristers to identify and run significant public interest pro bono cases.
  • Working with the Refugee Advice and Casework Service representing an asylum seeker in a full federal court test case dealing with the application of the irrationality ground of judicial review to credit findings.
  • Continuing to provide RACS with a full time secondee.
  • Fostering an ongoing relationship with the Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia (ALS) by contributing support to ALS to assist in sending a delegate to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in Geneva and organised internal CLE on the outcomes of that Forum.
  • Assisting with a case relating to the ongoing detention of Indonesian children in adult prisons for the purpose of people smuggling investigations.
  • Assisting the Human Rights Law Centre by providing a venue for, and participating in, two seminars in Perth which brought together various NGOs and Indigenous Peoples representatives to discuss the Government’s National Human Rights Action Plan  and inform the Human Rights Law Centre’s submission in respect of that policy.
  • Assisting the Hong Kong Refugee Advice Centre with the preparation of a legal brief to support a re-opening application in a refugee status determination case.
  • Establishing a partnership with the Inner Sydney Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service (“ISTAAS”) within Redfern Legal Centre. We worked with ISTAAS to assist  them  to publish the Boarders and Lodgers Kit. We also provide them with advice on complex legal issues.
  • Hosting a forum during CHOGM at which the Honourable Justice Michael Kirby spoke on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex issues in the Commonwealth.
  • Assisting the Hong Kong Refugee Advice Centre on the preparation of a country of origin information research memorandum on Guinea.
  • Developing a partnership with the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC), including providing PIAC with a full-time secondee from our Sydney office.
  • Working with PIAC on the Australian Government’s consultation process regarding the consolidation of existing federal anti-discrimination laws into a single, comprehensive law. Mallesons took a leading role in engaging business in the Government’s consultation process, holding a client seminar with PIAC on the issue and preparing briefing materials. Mallesons subsequently wrote a letter to the Attorney-General committing Mallesons to a discrimination-free workplace culture and endorsing the Government’s key principles for reform.
  • Hosting a seminar for clients on business and human rights. Our eminent speakers discussed the interaction between business and human rights and why it matters for business.
  • Preparing a submission to the four-year review of the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities (the only law firm making a submission on its own behalf; the submission was cited 20+ times in the review report prepared by the Victorian Parliament Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee).

  • Co-hosting the King & Wood Mallesons / Castan Centre annual human rights lecture, presented by Joy Ezeilo, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children.

  • Preparing a briefing paper for the Human Rights Law Centre to provide to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children for her visit to Australia.

  • Assisting the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre with Federal Magistrates Court and Federal Court judicial review applications.  We also assist the ASRC by  transcribing tapes of Immigration Department interviews with asylum seekers, and provide the ASRC with other ad hoc administrative assistance.

  • Assisting the Human Rights Law Centre to prepare a submission to the Productivity Commission inquiry into Australia’s export credit arrangements.

  • Assisting the International Detention Coalition to prepare a handbook on alternatives to immigration detention

  • Assisting the Human Rights Law Centre to prepare a communication on behalf of an individual complainant to the UN Human Rights Committee.

  • Hosting (with Jonathan Kelp of the Melbourne HRLG chairing) a seminar on human trafficking run by Australian Lawyers for Human Rights and the International Law Association (Vic).

  • Hosting a seminar to mark the lodgement of the 2011 NGO report on the Rights of the Child (with UNICEF and NCYLC).

  • Continuing to provide case notes and articles for the Human Rights Law Centre’s monthly human rights newsletter.

  • Acting for two young plaintiffs who brought a landmark constitutional challenge to the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (Cth) — and won.  This ground-breaking decision of the High Court of Australia in Rowe v Electoral Commissioner enabled almost 100,000 additional Australians to vote at the 2010 Federal Election. See our media release here.

  • Preparing communications to the UN Human Rights Committee, and assisting with the preparation of many significant reports to the UN regarding Australia’s compliance with its international human rights obligations.

Our HRLG has a number of strong partnerships and welcomes the opportunity to develop new relationships with suitable organisations.

In Sydney, the work of the HRLG is underpinned by its partnerships with the NSW Disability Discrimination Legal Centre (DDLC), a community legal centre working to provide justice for persons with disabilities, and the Refugee Advice and Casework Service (RACS). As part of these partnerships, the HRLG provides the DDLC and RACS with ongoing legal advice and other administrative support.  For example, through our partnership with RACS, solicitors from the firm’s Sydney Centre have been seconded to RACS offices full time, and others have provided administrative law advice and representation in the Federal Magistrates Court to potential refugees who have been refused a protection visa and who have been unsuccessful before the Refugee Review Tribunal.

In Melbourne, the HRLG assisted with the establishment of the Human Rights Law Resource Centre (HRLRC), and is significantly involved in the HRLRC's continuing work through the provision of research and drafting assistance in relation to numerous human rights law projects and through regular contributions to the HRLRC's publications. The HRLG has also recently formalised a partnership with the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. ​​​​