‘Finally an academic approach that prepares you for the real world’: simulations for human rights skills development in higher education


  • Fiona McGaughey University of Western Australia https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5992-9939
  • Lisa Hartley Centre for Human Rights Education, Curtin University
  • Susan Banki University of Sydney
  • Paul Duffill Rikkyo University
  • Matthew Stubbs University of Adelaide
  • Phil Orchard University of Wollongong
  • Simon Rice University of Sydney
  • Laurie Berg University of Technology Sydney https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8686-6283
  • Paghona Peggy Kerdo Kerdo Legal




Effectively addressing violations of human rights requires dealing with complex, multi-spatial problems involving actors at local, national and international levels. It also calls for a diverse range of inter-disciplinary skills. How can tertiary educators prepare students for such work? This study evaluates the coordinated implementation of human rights simulations at seven Australian universities. Based on quantitative and qualitative survey data from 252 students, we find they report that human rights simulation exercises develop their skills. In particular, students report that they feel better able to analyse and productively respond to human rights violations, and that they have a greater awareness of the inter-disciplinary skills required to do so. Overall, this study finds that simulations are a valid, scalable, classroom-based work integrated learning experience that can be adapted for students at undergraduate and postgraduate level, across a range of disciplines and in both face-to-face and online classes.


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Author Biographies

Fiona McGaughey, University of Western Australia

Dr Fiona McGaughey teaches in the Master of International Law and the Law and Society Major at the University of Western Australia.   As well as research on legal and human rights pedagogy, her other research areas include international human rights law with a particular interest in the United Nations, non-governmental organisations, modern slavery and transitional justice.  

Lisa Hartley, Centre for Human Rights Education, Curtin University

Lisa Hartley’s interdisciplinary teaching and research is focused on questions of human rights and social change and is driven by a desire to bridge the gap between theory and practice. As a research active and teaching academic, the integration of community engagement, teaching, and scholarly research is integral to her academic life. Lisa's research cuts across the fields of refugee and migrant studies, sociology, and community and social psychology.

Susan Banki, University of Sydney

Susan Banki's research interests lie in the political, institutional, and legal contexts that explain the roots of and solutions to international human rights violations. In particular, she is interested in the ways that questions of sovereignty, citizenship/membership and humanitarian principles have shaped our understanding of and reactions to various transnational phenomena, such as the international human rights regime, international migration and the provision of international aid. 

Paul Duffill, Rikkyo University

Paul Duffill is a Lecturer, Center for English Discussion Class, Rikkyo University. He is a former Assistant Professor, Faculty of Global and Regional Studies, Toyo University, and former Honorary Research Fellow at the Department of Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Sydney where he is currently a PhD Candidate. His research focuses on the integration of human rights and peacebuilding, peace and human rights in Israel-Palestine, and university-level social justice active learning pedagogy and simulations.

Matthew Stubbs, University of Adelaide

Matthew Stubbs researches and teaches in the areas of human rights, constitutional law and international law at the University of Adelaide, where he is Associate Dean (Learning and Teaching) of the Adelaide Law School. He also serves as Chair of the Human Rights Committee of the Law Society of South Australia and a member of the Law Council of Australia's National Human Rights Committee.

Phil Orchard, University of Wollongong

Phil Orchard is an Associate Professor of International Relations at the University of Wollongong. He is the author of A Right to Flee: Refugees, States, and the Construction of International Cooperation (Cambridge University Press, 2014) and Protecting the Internally Displaced: Rhetoric and Reality (Routledge, 2018). He is also the co-editor, with Alexander Betts, of Implementation in World Politics: How Norms Change Practice (Oxford University Press, 2014).

Simon Rice, University of Sydney

Simon Rice OAM has worked as a social justice and human rights lawyer, and now teaches and researches in those areas.

Laurie Berg, University of Technology Sydney

Laurie Berg joined the UTS Law Faculty in 2009. Her research advances the rights of temporary migrant workers in Australia and the region. She is the author of the first book on the regulation of temporary labour migration in Australia and has held a number of significant national and international research grants, including one for the Fair Work Ombudsman examining the experience of international students in the Australian workplace and another for Open Society Foundations International Migration Initiative examining the use of digital technology platforms to protect and empower migrant workers. Her recent research projects include a ground-breaking empirical study of non-residents working in homes across Australia as au pairs. 

Paghona Peggy Kerdo, Kerdo Legal

Paghona Peggy Kerdo now works in private practice. She still practices in immigration and refugee law and maintains a large pro bono practice. In the past, she worked as a social justice and human rights lawyer, and also taught and trained legal practitioners and law students in those areas.  




How to Cite

McGaughey, F., Hartley, L., Banki, S., Duffill, P., Stubbs, M., Orchard, P., Rice, S., Berg, L., & Kerdo, P. P. (2019). ‘Finally an academic approach that prepares you for the real world’: simulations for human rights skills development in higher education. Human Rights Education Review, 2(1), 70–93. https://doi.org/10.7577/hrer.3093



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