Friday in Focus: Emilie McDonnell

by | Mar 22, 2019

I am currently a DPhil in Law candidate at University College. My research focuses on protecting the right to leave and related human rights of asylum seekers, refugees and other migrants when migration control is conducted extraterritorially and has been outsourced to states of origin and transit, private actors and international organisations.

I came to Oxford as the 2016 Tasmanian Rhodes Scholar, completing the BCL with Distinction in 2017 and the MPhil in Law in 2018. I hold a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Criminology, and a Bachelor of Laws with First Class Honours in Law from the University of Tasmania. I am also admitted to the Tasmanian Supreme Court as an Australian lawyer.

Since as long as I can remember I have been deeply passionate about social justice and human rights for all people. This led me to my current academic and professional interest in human rights, refugee and migration law. Motivated by the lack of free legal support in Tasmania for refugees and asylum seekers, in 2013 I co-founded and was a Director until 2016 of Tasmania’s first community legal centre for refugees, asylum seekers and other humanitarian entrants, the Tasmanian Refugee Legal Service.

As soon as I arrived in Oxford, I wanted to be involved with the Oxford Human Rights Hub – seeing it as a natural extension of my interests and motivation for coming to Oxford – to be involved in and learn from a network of scholars that advocate for human rights. I was inspired by the team at the Hub, being taught by the incredible Sandra Fredman on the BCL, and was excited by its approach in tackling human rights issues: promoting the integration of academia, policy and practice and fostering dialogue and cooperation between people and groups from all spheres.

My involvement began with writing blog posts, such as my first post here, and then being a researcher for Oxford Pro Bono Publico, exploring issues such as the death penalty and gender dysphoria. I am currently an Associate of the Hub and employed as Research Assistant. My role includes both administrative and research assistance to help with its work, including for projects, conferences, the blog, and running of the website.

Working with the Hub has been invaluable; allowing me to hone my research and practical skills, contributed to my professional development, allowed me to work with passionate and like-minded individuals, and shown me how a small, vibrant team can work together to create positive social change.

Overall, it has reaffirmed the importance of academia in contributing to legal and policy reform, which is something I will hold close for both my DPhil and future career. I look forward to continuing to work with the Hub.

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