Dr Helen Szoke AO delivers 2018 Max Charlesworth Oration

Dr Helen Szoke AO delivers 2018 Max Charlesworth Oration

3 July 2018

On the evening of Thursday 28 June, Foundation House marked the UN Day in Support of Victims of Torture as well as World Refugee Day and Refugee Week with the 2018 Max Charlesworth Oration.

Each year on the UN Day the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) releases a global reading to its members. On the evening, Lynne Haultain, Board Chair and MC shared this portion of the reading.

Fortunately, there is a growing global and regional recognition that torture victim migrants have a right to protection and rehabilitation in the countries where they seek refuge. The UN, the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights, the European Court of Justice and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights have all recently made this very clear. To make these rights a reality, people and organisations across the world stand ready to support life after torture. We in the rehabilitation movement know very well how to do this.

The torture rehabilitation movement has amassed a vast body of knowledge and is constantly developing new approaches, methodologies and resources to fully understand the complexity of migrants’ stories. We understand the influence of culture and context in the rehabilitation process, how different interventions are suitable for different populations and individuals at different stages of the migration cycle, and how living with poverty and with uncertainty regarding immigration status affects mental health.

One of the things that we know beyond doubt is that, while there are similarities to the migrant experience the world over, it is equally certain that each person’s story should be met afresh; histories are subjective, people are diverse, spoken and unspoken needs vary from one day to the other and over time. We therefore join together in solidarity on this International Day in Support of Victims of Torture to remember those who have been exposed to unimaginable abuses, and to recognise the importance of holistic rehabilitation.

In this way, we support life after torture.


We were honoured that Dr Helen Szoke AO, CEO of Oxfam Australia joined us as our speaker. Oxfam Australia works locally and globally to empower communities to tackle poverty. Helen is a strong advocate for foreign aid and international development, human rights, gender and race equity. Helen joined Oxfam in 2013. Prior to this appointment, she served as Australia’s Federal Race Discrimination Commissioner and as the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner.

Helen delivered an inspiring and challenging mix of local and global information, drawing together her own personal anecdotes with the harsh reality of refugee displacement across the world.

We were joined on the evening by a number of long time and wonderful members of the Foundation House community including Patrons Jan and David deKretser, Patron Dure Dara, members of the Charlesworth family, Professor Pat McGorry, Louise McKenzie and many others.

Our thanks go to Dr Helen Szoke AO, our audience who came out on a winter’s evening and the many Foundation House staff who assisted with the running of the event.

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