Philippa Duell-Piening

PhD Candidate

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Philippa Duell-Piening is a PhD candidate at the Melbourne Law School with support from the Melbourne Social Equity Institute. Her research is primarily in the field of human rights law with a focus on disability and refugee rights. Philippa is a member of the interdisciplinary PhD Program in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies, a member of the Melbourne Disability Institute’s Disability Research Community of Practice, and affiliated with the Peter McMullin Centre on Statelessness.

Prior to commencing her PhD candidature in 2019, Philippa worked at the Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture coordinating the Victorian Refugee Health Network. The focus of Philippa’s work was on health sector development and government engagement to reduce health inequalities and improve access to health services for people who are refugees. Philippa has worked in the forced-migration contexts of Timor-Leste in 2002 and on the Thai-Myanmar border in 2012.

Philippa has a Graduate Diploma in International Law from the University of Melbourne, a Master in Community and International Development from Deakin University, and a Bachelor of Occupational Therapy/Bachelor of Ergonomics from La Trobe University. She has published in Disability and Society about refugee settlement and disability, and in a wide range of journals regarding refugee health.

Philippa is registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency and is a sessional teacher at the Australian Catholic University School of Occupational Therapy, teaching in the areas of social determinants of health, community development and leadership.

Thesis Title

The right to be counted for people with disabilities who are refugees or from refugee backgrounds

Thesis Summary

This thesis explores the significance of article 31 of the Convention on the Right of Persons with Disabilities (‘CRPD’) to people who are refugees with disabilities. State obligations to disaggregate data under article 31, create possibilities to better understand the situations of people who experience multiple and intersectional discrimination. This research considers how the refugee context may inform a jurisdiction’s approach to data disaggregation, as well as how it may impact on what is deemed ‘appropriate information’ to collect.

As reflected in the revolutionary statement: ‘nothing about us, without us’, the participation of people with lived experience of disability and refugee flight in the interpretation and monitoring of the CRPD is vital to understanding their context, and fundamental to human rights law’s aspiration of addressing power inequalities. This research seeks to consult people who are refugees with disabilities and/or their representative organisations to inform the normative interpretation of article 31.


  • International Human Rights Law
  • Refugee Law
  • Intersectionality
  • Critical Disability Studies
  • Social Determinants of Health