Australia’s Legal Obligation to Protect Afghan Interpreters

A recording of this event can be watched here

The Australian government’s treatment of Afghan interpreters and other Afghan nationals who have assisted Australia has been the topic of controversy in past months.

This panel will examine Australia’s moral and legal obligation to protect workers who have helped Australian troops.

In doing so, it will discuss historical examples of Australia’s past troop withdrawals (eg from Vietnam and Iraq) and how other countries have dealt with the issue (particularly the United States and the United Kingdom).

It will also place the debate within the broader context of the granting of humanitarian visas and Australia’s approach to refugee applications from Afghanistan. In particular, what does the grant of special visas to interpreters and other workers mean for the way in which we treat other refugees fleeing Afghanistan?


Emeritus Professor William Maley, Australian National University

William Maley is Emeritus Professor at The Australian National University, where he was Professor of Diplomacy from 2003-2021. He is a Member of the Order of Australia, a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia and a Fellow of the Australian Institute of International Affairs. He was admitted as a Barrister of the High Court of Australia in 1982. In November 2003, he received the AUSTCARE Paul Cullen Humanitarian Award for services to refugees. He is author of Rescuing Afghanistan (2006), What is a Refugee? (2016), Transition in Afghanistan: Hope, Despair and the Limits of Statebuilding (2018), The Afghanistan Wars (2021), and Diplomacy, Communication, and Peace: Selected Essays (2021).

Sitarah Mohammadi, Deputy Chair, Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN)

A former Hazara refugee from Afghanistan now based in Melbourne, Australia, Sitarah Mohammadi is the Deputy Chair of Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN) and is a current student of Juris Doctor (JD) at Monash University Law School.

She has a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in International Relations and Human Rights, from Monash University and was the 2019 Provost Scholar at the University of Oxford, where she did her post-graduate studies in International Relations, Human Rights and Politics, and completed her dissertation on Australia’s refugee policy.

Evan Jones, Coordinator, Asia Displacement Solutions Platform

Evan is a refugee advocate with a BA in European Studies, and a Master of International Development Studies from the University of New South Wales in Australia. He has worked on human rights and refugee protection issues for almost a decade, with most of his work focused in the Asia-Pacific region.

Evan was based in Kabul, Afghanistan as the Coordinator of the Asia Displacement Solutions Platform. He has previously held leadership positions in other organisations including Asylum Access Malaysia, and the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network. Evan has also previously worked in various policy development roles with the Australian Government in Canberra, primarily focusing on international social security policy. Evan has extensive policy and advocacy experience at national, regional and international levels, and has been widely published in the media on refugee issues.

Chair: Associate Professor Maria O’Sullivan, Deputy Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, Monash Law @mariaosulliv

Maria is an Associate Professor and a Deputy Director of the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law. Maria is the author of a number of international and national publications on the subject of human rights, public law and refugee law. She is currently undertaking a project on Freedom of Information and Offshore Processing and research on the right to protest. Her recent publications include papers on the public law implications of technology and automated decision-making and a book examining the durability of refugee protection: Refugee Law and Durability of Protection: Temporary Residence and Cessation of Status (Routledge, 2019). Maria is a regular media commentator on human rights and public law and has been published in The Age, Sydney Morning Herald and The Conversation.

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Maria O’Sullivan