Renuka T Balasubramaniam

PhD Candidate

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Renuka T Balasubramaniam is the recipient of the Melbourne University Human Rights Scholarship (2018-2021). She is partner at a Malaysian firm, with over twenty years of experience with clients such as corporations, associations, trade unions, foreign missions, international NGOs, the UNHCR and even a political party. In order to broaden her understanding of the unseen side of legal practice, through her membership of the various committees of the Malaysian Bar she represented a range of clients such as those afflicted by drug and alcohol abuse, those engaged in crime or who were incarcerated and those with stateless, refugee and immigrant backgrounds; on a  probono basis. In 2011 together with several other passionate Malaysian lawyers, she co-founded Lawyers for Liberty; whose notable campaigns have included opposition of the Australian Government's ‘Malaysia Solution’ and the expose of extra-judicial killings by officers of the Royal Malaysian Police. Her other research experience has included a multi-country project on victim experiences with the Australia-Asia Program to Combat Trafficking, an access to justice evaluation for the Malaysian Bar, an analysis of public institutions and redress mechanisms for Asylum Access Malaysia and a fact finding exercise on stateless children working in the Malaysian palm oil industry, for The Forest Trust. Her masters research at La Trobe University draws from her studies in 2012 at Oxford University's Refugee Studies Center, and evaluates the legality of Malaysia's refugee program.

She has taught Malaysian Employment Laws to human resource practitioners; and Immigrant Access to Justice to case workers at the Kuala Lumpur Bar Council's Legal Aid Center. With support from Diplomacy Training Program (University of New South Wales)and Migrant Forum in Asia, similar courses were extended to NGOs in Manila, Kathmandu and Chennai.

Thesis Title

Supplementing Gaps in Social Protections Within the Malaysian Palm Oil Industry: A Role for Business

Thesis Summary

The Malaysian palm oil industry, despite being a critical driver of the state’s economic growth is lightly regulated. Under-regulation contributes to deficient identification and alleviation of the harms caused by the industry. As in other former post-colonial states, the unintended outcome is that the interests of the subaltern or underclass communities as well as of the environment are subordinated to structural biases within dominant institutions. My thesis aims to evaluate the deficiencies of international law and transnational private regulation frameworks presently governing the industry and considers the extent to which domestic regulatory governance is potentially ameliorative.


  • Legal Theory
  • International Law
  • Public Law
  • Employment Law