Humanitarianism & Human Rights

The 48th Annual Symposium on Humanitarianism and Human Rights was held in Western Australia, 15-17 November 2017.

Over the last decade, there has been an explosion of interest in the history of human rights, linked to critique of its current global formations. The long history of human rights has been shaped by the ideas of humanism, conflicts for religious freedoms and political representations, and colonial engagement that provokes debates about universal humanity and inviolable rights.

The Symposium program explored three related questions:

  • How is contemporary Australia shaped by these long intellectual and emotional histories regarding human rights and humanitarianism?
  • Can we identify a distinctively Australian perspective on these questions?
  • What are the challenges for Australia today in engaging with human rights related to matters as wide-ranging as sexuality, disability activism, Indigenous rights, linguistic imperialism, refugees, and religious freedoms.

Annual Academy Lecture

Professor Kim Scott FAHA gave the 48th Annual Academy Lecture on ‘Not just warriors or victims’. Professor Scott is a multi-award-winning Noongar novelist, Professor of Writing at Curtin University and Honorary Fellow of the Academy.

The Lecture was introduced by Professor John Fitzgerald FAHA.

The audio recording of Lecture is now available online.

Selected papers and additional works

Select presentations and additional related works by speakers are available below. Others will be added soon. 

David Konstan FAHAEmotions and Human Rights

Survendrini Perera and Joseph PuglieseResearchers Against Pacific Black Sites and Deathscapes: Mapping Race and Violence in Settler States

Tim Rowse FAHASome reasons for the rise of the Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Estate

Rabia SiddiqueWe have to stop normalising relentless Islamophobia in Australia (The Guardian, 14 October 2017) and Courage Under Fire (TEDx presentation) 

Download the full Symposium program and commemorative poster 


The program was convened by Professor Susan Broomhall FAHA (The University of Western Australia), Professor Alan Dench FAHA (Curtin University), Professor Jane Lydon FAHA (The University of Western Australia), and Professor Baden Offord (Curtin University).

Read their reflections on the Symposium. 


We gratefully acknowledge the support for the 48th Symposium from the following:

  • Co-principal sponsors: Curtin University and the University of Western Australia
  • Associate sponsors: Edith Cowan University and the University of Notre Dame Australia
  • Symposium venue sponsor: Centre for Human Rights Education at Curtin University
  • Wednesday public event: Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions
  • Destination sponsor: Perth Convention Bureau and Tourism Western Australia

About the image

We are grateful for the permission of award winning photographer Barat Ali Batoor to use his photograph, First Day at Sea, in promoting Symposium. You can learn more about Barat’s story, and the image on our website.