How student members can benefit

Students can learn and grow as members of CLA, taking up many opportunities that might not otherwise be available…or they can simply stay aware of what’s happening, and decide to get involved only occasionally. Here student member Rosh O’Meagher explains how she benefited from her first year of membership.

Student membership has brought diverse opportunities

I joined CLA in March 2008, at which time I was a fourth year Law/Forensic Science student at the University of Canberra.

Since then, I have had the opportunity to attend the annual NGO human rights consultations hosted by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Stephen Smith; the 2008 Criminal Justice Forum hosted by the Minister for Home Affairs, Bob Debus; and I have interacted with numerous academics and professionals including the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the ACT, Jeffrey Miles.

Through attending these forums and interacting with people who share a common interest in human rights, I have been exposed to topical domestic and international human rights issues. These issues are vast both in a quantitative sense and the array of contexts in which they arise. It can be as local as the police having greater powers of arrest or further afield such as the torture and maiming of prisoners in developing counties. Learning about the violations of human rights is the first step, understanding what can be done (or what can’t be done) naturally follows.

Taking up the opportunities CLA has offered me has afforded me an invaluable insight into the way human rights abuses are addressed, or not addressed, which is sometimes the case. I have learnt that dealing with breaches of human rights is a highly politicised process and the need to ward off negative political consequences can outweigh the need to protect civil liberties (e.g. Australia/China relationship despite China’s poor human rights record).

Learning about the human rights violations that are currently occurring and understanding the process that must be gone through to address them has been a massive realisation for me. It is easy to get caught up in only those things shown to us through mass media, while forgetting the reality of situations where there is so much more going on, often with the solutions lost in politics and red tape. Despite the, at times, pessimistic outlook, understanding the reality of the problems is the first step to being able to think about a feasible solution.

CLA has offered me a great deal of hands-on opportunities through which I have expanded my knowledge of human rights and related issues. Their monthly e-newsletters keep me updated with topical human rights issues and the action CLA is taking. It has been a very worthwhile membership and I would urge students who are interested in learning about and protecting civil liberties to get involved with the opportunities offered by CLA.

Rosheehan O’Meagher
University of Canberra
17 March 2009