MLS attracts world-renowned international human rights scholars to teach in the Master of Human Rights Law from 2016
An increased demand from potential students will see Melbourne Law School offer a standalone Master of Human Rights Law from next year.
The new degree will be co-directed by Professors Dianne Otto and John Tobin.
Professor Otto says MLS has attracted a large number of world-renowned scholars to teach in the program.
"In 2016, in addition to the compulsory introductory subject, International Human Rights Law, which John and I teach together, there are subjects dealing with human rights in the context of terrorism, economic globalisation, business, armed conflict, health, work, migration, and trade and development, as well as subjects that focus on the rights of specific groups like refugees, minorities, children and women," she says.
"There are three highlights of particular note. First, Professor Philip Alston from New York University Law School, who is also the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, will teach a subject called Reimagining Human Rights, with his colleague Professor Gráinne de Búrca also from NYU."
"Second, Professor Hilary Charlesworth, one of Australia's most outstanding international legal scholars, will teach Women, War and Peacebuilding.
"And third, Professor Ratna Kapur, from Jindal Global Law School in India, internationally-renowned for her post-colonial feminist research in human rights law, will teach Universality and Human Rights."
The new program stems from an amplified interest in human rights law developed in part from offering a Graduate Diploma in Human Rights Law, and the offering of human rights law as a specialty subject in other Masters programs.
Professor Otto says for those interested in this area of law, the Graduate Diploma was not enough.
"There is a great deal of interest from students in this area of law, and students will often decide to take a human rights subject to broaden their horizons and be challenged in a different way, even if their specialty is something like tax or corporate law."
"Establishing the Master of Human Rights Law was the next logical step: to showcase the fact that we offer the widest range of human rights subjects at the graduate level in Australia, to draw attention to the many eminent human rights scholars that teach in the program, and to respond to student interest and demand," she says.
The study and practise of human rights law in today's society, the international and human rights law expert says, has a crucial role to play in addressing poverty, dispossession and disenfranchisement to make the world safer; more environmentally sustainable, peaceful and egalitarian.
"In domestic legal systems and internationally, human rights law is a rapidly developing area of law that touches on every aspect of our lives and offers important tools for challenging inequality and marginalisation," Professor Otto says.
"Human rights provide a language that values everyone on the basis of our shared humanity. In the current climate, where free market values are dominant and human worth has come to be measured in largely economic terms, human rights law provides one means to reaffirm the importance of human dignity and insist that this must outweigh and reshape market considerations."
"Thus human rights law has a role to play in every area of law, not just in the obvious areas of public law like constitutional and administrative law, but also in commercial and competition law, resources, energy and environmental law, tax law and so on. In international law, realising universal enjoyment of human rights is one of the purposes of the United Nations and therefore, not just its member states, but all of its organs and specialised agencies have human rights obligations."
The subjects offered in the new program aimed to deepen students' engagement with and understanding of the challenging area of law.
Professor Otto also made clear the degree was beneficial to those outside of the legal profession, such as those working in government departments like foreign affairs or economic development, or in non-governmental development or human rights organisations in Australia and around the world.
The 2016 program will be available on the Law School website by mid-September.
By Andy Walsh