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Madeline Gleeson | Offshore and Out of Mind

Madeline Gleeson

Offshore processing should never have been introduced in Australia. It is long overdue to end, and Australia’s mistakes should not be repeated elsewhere.

Madeline Gleeson

There are few countries as cruel and punishing to people seeking asylum as Australia. Despite the fact that Australia is a signatory to all the major international human rights treaties, there is actually no legally binding framework here for the rights of any person - including refugees.  UN expert bodies have repeatedly found that Australia’s refugee policies violate international law. Yet these cruel policies remain, and those who speak out risk being punished.

Surprisingly, it hasn’t always been this way. Decades ago, the Australian government welcomed those seeking asylum from China and Vietnam, because it was understood that people fleeing from harm should be offered a safe haven without punishment. But gradually Australia became more hostile to those in need of its protection. In 2001 to 2008, and again from 2012, Australia forcibly transferred people arriving by boat to offshore processing facilities in Nauru and Papua New Guinea. There, they were imprisoned and subjected to horrendous conditions, despite having committed no crime.  

So how can Australian politicians continue to justify this treatment against some of the most vulnerable? In ten minutes, human rights lawyer Madeline Gleeson will unpack why offshore processing of refugees is both ineffective and inhumane.


In this sprawling digital age where a universe of information is accessible within seconds, it's easy to be paralysed by the simple question of where to begin. 

Introducing: Ten Minute Genius, a series of short talks designed to create a space in which you can engage with new ideas. We have curated a collection of material scientists, philosophers and maths lovers to help you make some sense of this chaotic information vortex. And because you’re busy, all we ask of you is just ten minutes. 


Madeline Gleeson

Madeline Gleeson is a lawyer and Senior Research Fellow at the Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law at UNSW Sydney, where she directs the Offshore Processing and Regional Protection projects. Madeline specialises in international human rights and refugee law, with a focus on the law of State responsibility, extraterritorial human rights obligations, offshore processing on Nauru and Manus Island, and refugee protection in the Asia-Pacific region. Madeline also holds a Bachelor in International Studies and Bachelor of Laws with First Class Honours from the UNSW SYdney, and a Diploma of Political Studies from the Institut d’Etudes Politiques in Aix en Provence, France. Previously, Madeline worked with the UNHCR and the International Catholic Migration Commission in Geneva, with the Jesuit Refugee Service in Cambodia, and as a solicitor in Australia.

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