Susan is a Research Officer at the Centre for International Governance and Justice (prior post), where she works with IntLawGrrls guest/alumna Hilary Charlesworth, Centre Director, on the building of democracy after conflict. Susan graduated from the University of Queensland in 1997 with a bachelor' degree in government and an LL.B., both with honors, having received a University Medal in 1996. In December 2008 she earned a Doctor of Juridical Science from the Australian National University College of Law for her thesis, which Routledge will publish as Gender and Transitional Justice: The Women of East Timor in 2010
Susan currently serves as a member of the Board of UNIFEM Australia and is President of the Australian Lawyers for Human Rights.
Her career before entering academia was diverse. After some volunteer work with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, Susan did her articles of clerkship with national law firm Blake Dawson Waldron, and was admitted as a solicitor in March 2000. Since then, Susan has pursued human rights and refugee advocacy work with the National Council of Churches in Australia, the Australian Council for International Development, and the UNHCR. From 2005 until 2008, Susan was a Research Specialist at the Parliamentary Library, advising Australia's Federal Parliamentarians on legal issues relating to refugees and terrorism.
In her guest post below, Susan describes the continuing struggle, by women in post-independence East Timor, against sexual and gender-based violence.
Susan dedicates her post to Shirley Perry Smith (1924-1998), better known as Mum Shirl (below right). Susan explains:
Mum Shirl was a prominent Aboriginal Australian and activist committed to justice and welfare of Aboriginal Australians. Smith began to visit Aboriginal people in prison after one of her brothers was incarcerated, and she discovered that her visits were beneficial to other prisoners as well. Her community activism also saw her accompanying indigenous people who were unfamiliar with the legal system to court when they had been charged with a crime. Her nickname came from her habit of replying, 'I’m his Mum,' whenever officials queried her relationship with the prisoners.
Mum Shirl also spent considerable time and money finding homes for children whose parents could not look after them, and helping displaced children to find their own parents again. The children with nowhere to go often ended up living with her. By the early 1990s she had raised over 60 children. Likewise, many people with no family or friends in Sydney arrived at Mum Shirl’s house seeking shelter.
She was a founding member of the Aboriginal Legal Service, Aboriginal Medical Service, Aboriginal Tent Embassy, the Aboriginal Children’s Service, and the Aboriginal Housing Company in Redfern, a suburb of Sydney, Australia.
Today Smith joins other IntLawGrrls foremothers in the list below our "visiting from ..." map at right.