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Dr Lucy Fiske


Lucy Fiske is a Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Cosmopolitan Civil Societies. She previously held lectureships at the Centre for Human Rights Education at Curtin University in Perth and the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at Sydney University.

Lucy comes to academia from a background of direct social work practice primarily with refugees and asylum seekers, and in the addictions field before this. Lucy’s practice experience continues to ground and shape her research and teaching, particularly in approaching issues of justice and rights from the perspective of people’s lived experiences and theorising from the bottom up.

Lucy is interested in a wide range of human rights related topics with a particular focus on refugees, asylum seekers and women’s rights. Theoretically, Lucy is interested in philosophical and social understandings of human rights and the implications of unresolved ontological tensions and paradoxes for implementation of human rights. This leads to questions of culture, production of knowledge and socio-political processes which marginalise divergent voices.

Her postdoctoral research focuses on the creation of informal (non-state based) protection for refugees in South East Asia, with a particular focus on Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia. This project has grown out of a collaborative research project with Prof Linda Briskman (Swinburne) and Taka Gani (Jesuit Refugee Service Indonesia) exploring the lives of refugees in Indonesia, their relationships with the host communities and how they carve out lives in the absence of formal citizenship.

She is currently working with Assoc Prof Rita Shackel (Sydney Law School) and Action Aid on an Australian Aid funded project exploring women’s experiences of transitional justice following mass violence in Kenya, northern Uganda and the DRC. This research aims to create a platform for women affected by violence to be heard and to generate strategies for improving justice for women in post conflict societies.

Lucy’s previous research has focused primarily on Australia’s response to forced migration, attitudes that underpin national policy and discourse, racism and anti-racist education, immigration detention and refugee protest

Chancellor's Postdoctoral Research Fellow & Senior Lecturer, Public Communication Program
Core Member, CCS - Cosmopolitan Civil Societies
B. Arts (English & History), Social Work, Social Science (Anthropology), PhD Doctor of Philosophy

Research Interests

Human rights

Refugees and asylum seeking

Gender justice

Can supervise: Yes
Bilquis Ghani 'Reconceptualising Gender in Contemporary Afghanistan: Use of cultural production and

creativity among Afghan women.'


Fiske, L.I. 2016, Human Rights, Refugee Protest and Immigration Detention, Palgrave Macmillan, London.
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This book builds a compelling picture of injustices inside immigration detention centers, within the context of the rise of the use of immigration detention in the Global North. The author presents the rarely heard voices of refugees, bringing their perspectives to light and personalising and humanising a global political issue. Based on in-depth interviews with formerly detained refugees who were involved in a wide range of protests, such as sit-ins and non-compliance, hunger strikes, lip sewing, escapes and riots, Human Rights, Refugee Protest and Immigration Detention presents a comprehensive insight into immigration detention and protest. Drawing on the work of Michel Foucault and Hannah Arendt, the book challenges contemporary human rights discourses which institutionalise power and will be a must-read for scholars, advocates and policymakers engaged in debates about immigration detention and forced migration.


Briskman, L. & Fiske, L.I. 2016, 'Creating Criminals: Australia's response to asylum seekers and refugees' in Furman, R., Lamphear, G. & Epps, D. (eds), The Immigrant Other, Columbia University Press, New York, pp. 225-239.
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Perhaps more so than with many books, the title of our book, The Immigrant Other : Lived Experiences in a Transnational World, articulates our intentions for the overall nature of our volume and for each individual chapter. In this introduction ...
Fiske, L.I. 2014, 'Refugees and asylum seekers: Social work practice with refugees and asylum seekers' in Rice, S. & Day, A. (eds), Social Work in the Shadow of the Law, Federation Press, Annandale, pp. 322-342.
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This chapter outlines the legal framework for refugees and asylum seekers in Australia and the social, psychological and legal issues which refugees and asylum seekers commonly face. The chapter explores the role of social workers practicing in this field.
Kenny, M. & Fiske, L.I. 2013, 'Regulation 5.35: Coerced traetment of detained asylum seekers on hunger strike. Legal, ethical and human rights implications.' in Satvinder Juss (ed), The Ashgate Research Companion to Migration Law, Thoery and Policy, Ashgate, Farnum, pp. 423-442.
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This chapter explores the legal frameworks surrounding coerced treatment of detained asylum seekers on hunger strike and compares Australian law and practice with other jurisdictions. the chapter considers the human rights of detainees to protest and the legal and ethical obligations of detaining states. The chapter draws on accounts of hunger strike and force-feeding from former immigration detainees.
Fiske, L.I. 2013, 'Working with refugees and asylum seekers' in Connolly, M. & Harms, L. (eds), Social Work Contexts and Practice, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, pp. 151-162.
This chapter provides an outline of social practice with refugees and asylum seekers in Australia and New Zealand.
Fiske, L.I. & Briskman, L. 2009, 'The empire strikes back: Refugees, race and the reinvention of empire.' in Bennett, D., Earnest, J. & Tanji, M. (eds), People, Place and Power. Australia and the Asia Pacific, Black Swan Press, Perth, pp. 174-189.
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This chapter explores the ongoing cultural, economic and ideological impact of the British Empire in Australia. Using Australia's history of immigration and its more recent response to asylum seekers as a case study, the authors contend that the 'end of empire' has not yet come; rather 'empire thinking' is thriving and continuing to shape global refugee movements and international politics. Empire has been divorced from the overt evidence of its existence. enabling the 'common sense' of racism and capitalism to be redeployed in a postmodern guise to continue the economic, cultural and political domination of peoples from the global south, wherever they may live.
Briskman, L. & Fiske, L.I. 2008, 'Teaching Human Rights at University: Critical pedagogy in action' in Newell, C. & Offord, B. (eds), Activation Human Rights in Education: Exploration, Innovation and Transformation, Australian College of Educators, Deakin West, pp. 64-74.
This chapter presents a holistic model for teaching human rights at universities, incorporating philosophical, historical, political, anthropological, legal and practical frameworks for understanding human rights. It proposes moving beyond legal positivist notions of rights to incorporate human rights culture, sentimentality and utopian visions.


Fiske, L.I. & Shackel, R. 2016, 'Effects of conflict-induced displacement on women in DRC, Kenya and Uganda', http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2016/11/families-on-the-move, UN Women. Families on the Move, New York University, Centre for Global Affairs, New York.
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Fiske, L.I. & Shackel, R. 2015, 'Making Clients out of Citizens. Women's economic empowerment programs.', Gender, Poverty and Violence: Implications for gender justice in post conflict situations. A global symposium, Sydney.
Post conflict interventions are dominated by legal, security and development discourses. There is an emerging standardised 'set' of international responses to conflict including internationally mediated peace negotiations, prosecutions, truth commissions and an influx of aid and development NGOs. After sustained efforts from women's movements and civil society, international actors are broadening their concerns to include the impacts of conflict on women. International Criminal Law (ICL) has recognised sexual violence against women as a war crime and a crime against humanity in certain circumstances. UN resolutions certify the importance of women's involvement in peace processes and post conflict rebuilding. Women are becoming increasingly more visible in political, legal and public discourse as victims of war. Many high status interventions deal primarily with elites from within conflict communities and seek to rebuild on a western neoliberal democratic model with little accommodation of local practices or involvement of those most adversely impacted by the conflict. This model often reinforces pre-existing structural inequalities and further privileges those most able to access power, and further marginalises those with least access to political, economic and cultural power. Meanwhile, NGO development interventions are fraught with tensions, often emerging from and operating within colonial charitable paradigms which, arguably paradoxically reinforce dependency and powerlessness. In this paper we draw on fieldwork conducted with women affected by violence in Kenya, eastern DRC and northern Uganda to examine the ways in which a range of transitional justice mechanisms operate. In particular, we explore the effects of such interventions on women's agency and their self-identification as citizens. We question whether large scale NGO service provision, international prosecutions and other interventions might be inadvertently distancing women from their own resilien...
Fiske, L.I. 2014, 'Human rights, the human condition and refugee protest', Refugee Voices, Refugee Studies Centre, Oxford.
When detainees go on hunger strike or riot or occupy the roofs of detention centres, their actions are usually narrated by governments keen to discredit them and their actions as criminal, manipulative and evidence of their barbarity and difference. A secondary, counter narration is provided by detainee supporters who explain the actions as evidence of detainees distress and deteriorating mental health. The voices of the actors themselves, people held in detention and taking protest action, are rarely heard in any depth. Refugees are typically presented in popular discourse as either victims or villains and almost never as conscious agents. Drawing on in-depth interviews with refugees formerly held in Australian immigration detention centres, and the works of Hannah Arendt, this paper argues that the experience of immigration detention is fundamentally dehumanising and that while detainee protest was aimed at attaining certain material outcomes, it also served important existential functions. The fact of protest was a rejection of a powerless state, a way for detained refugees to experience their own agency and with it, restoration of some of the `essential characteristics of human life and, a means to use their reduction to `bare humanity as a basis for insisting upon a place in the polis.

Journal articles

Fiske, L.I. 2016, 'Human Rights and Refugee Protest against Immigration Detention: Refugees' Struggles for Recognition as Human', Refuge: Canada's periodical on refugees, vol. 32, no. 1, pp. 18-27.
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Ali, M., Briskman, L. & Fiske, L.I. 2016, 'Asylum seekers and refugees in Indonesia: Problems and potentials', Cosmopolitan Civil Societies: an interdisciplinary journal, vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 22-42.
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Asylum seekers and refugees in Indonesia increasingly experience protracted waiting times for permanent settlement in other countries. They have few, if any, legal rights, coupled with extremely limited financial resources and no access to government provided services. In response to the prospect of living for many years in this difficult and liminal space, a small community of refugees in the West Java town of Cisarua has built relationships, skills and confidence among themselves and with host Indonesians to respond to identified needs. This paper outlines the main political and policy frameworks affecting the lives of refugees in Indonesia and then draws on research interviews and participant observation to illustrate the resilience and agency utilised by the community to mitigate uncertain futures. The major focus is on education for asylum seeker/refugee children.
Ghani, B. & Fiske, L. 2016, 'At the limits of justice: women of colour on terror', Continuum, pp. 1-3.
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Fiske, L. & Shackel, R. 2015, 'Gender, poverty and violence: Transitional justice responses to converging processes of domination of women in eastern DRC, northern Uganda and Kenya', Women's Studies International Forum, vol. 51, pp. 110-117.
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Gender, poverty and violence readily intersect in women's lives with profound impacts for women entrenching cycles of violence, disadvantage and disempowerment across women's lives in private and public domains. These effects are exacerbated in situations of armed conflict and in post-conflict societies where women are often targeted for particular types of violence, forced to enter into exploitative or abusive relationships and are routinely under-represented in key political, legal and economic decision making structures. Drawing on extensive fieldwork material we examine the complex and mutually constitutive ways in which gender, poverty and violence interact to shape the lives of women living in three conflict and post-conflict societies; eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), northern Uganda and Kenya. Finally, we consider the role of transitional justice, arguing for a more holistic approach with greater attention to gendered social and economic structures and better integration of the various mechanisms of transitional processes.
Fiske, L. 2015, 'Globalization and third world women: exploitation, coping and resistance', Journal of Peace Education, vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 109-110.
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Fiske, L.I. 2014, 'Riotous Refugees or Systemic Injustice? A Sociological Examination of Riots in Australian Immigration Detention Centres', Journal of Refugee Studies, vol. online.
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This article draws on testimony from refugees formerly held in Australian immigration detention centres who either participated in or witnessed riots in detention, alongside academic literature examining riots in a range of settings, to elucidate how and why riots happen in immigration detention. The article outlines a model of contextualizing and immediate preconditions for riots and then uses this model to analyse a series of riots which occurred in Australian immigration detention centres between 1999 and 2011. The author proposes that conditions in immigration detention centres almost guarantee riots and that while practices such as arbitrary use of solitary confinement and excessive use of force commonly act as the immediate triggers to riot episodes, the daily regimen of detention produces the preconditions necessary for riots to occur.
Fiske, L.I., Shackel, R., McCowan, C. & Angir, A. 2014, 'Complexity, chaos, compassion: Partnerships making justice work for women', Development Bulletin, vol. 76, pp. 52-55.
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Fiske, L.I. & Shackel, R. 2014, 'Ending Rape in War: How Far Have We Come?', Cosmopolitan Civil Societies: an interdisciplinary journal, vol. 6, no. 3, pp. 123-138.
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The rape of women has for centuries been an endemic feature of war, yet perpetrators largely go unpunished. Women were sanctioned as the spoils of war in biblical times and more recently it has been claimed that it is more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in modern conflict. Nevertheless, until the establishment of the ad hoc International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia – there was very little concern regarding the need to address the rape of women in conflict. This paper briefly maps historical attitudes towards rape in war, outlines some analyses and explanations of why rape in war occurs and finally turns more substantively to recent efforts by the international community to prosecute rape as a war crime and a crime against humanity. We argue, that while commendable in some ways, contemporary approaches to rape in war risk reinforcing aspects of women's status which contribute to the targeting of women for rape and continue to displace women from the centre to the margins in debates and practices surrounding rape in both war and peace time. We conclude by arguing that criminal prosecutions alone are insufficient and that, if we are to end the rape of women and girls in war (and peace) we need a radical restructuring of gender relations across every sphere of social and political life.
Briskman, L., Fiske, L.I. & Dimasi, M. 2012, 'Collateral Damage: The impact of Australian asylum seeker policy on Christmas Islanders (2001-2011)', Shima. The International Journal of Research into Island Cultures, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 99-115.
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Since the Tampa incident in 2001, Christmas Island has been a central site where Australias border protection and asylum seeker policies are visible This article takes four key events over a ten year period to track the impact on Christmas Islanders and on the Islanders changing attitudes towards asylum seekers, detention and federal government policies. The views of Christmas Islanders are not often heard in public discourse about detention on the island. This article seeks to provide a platform for a snapshot of views and to call for a greater role for Islanders in decisions that profoundly affect their lives.
Soldatic, K. & Fiske, L.I. 2009, 'Bodies 'locked up': Intersections of Disability and Race in Australian Immigration', Disability & Society, vol. 24, no. 3, pp. 289-301.
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Between 2005 and 2006 it came to be known that over 200 people had been wrongfully detained in Australian immigration detention centres, of whom, 13 were people with a disability. A review of the subsequent Commonwealth Ombudsman Reports into the wrongful detentions exposed an organizational culture in which othered voices were discredited and disregarded, an over- willingness to detain a person and a lack of proper oversight of these powers. This paper explores these reports and argues that proper investigation needs to go beyond organizational culture and to look also at historical, social, political and cultural forces shaping Australias use of immigration detention. The authors propose that the intersection of disability and race leaves people vulnerable to human rights violations primarily because this is also the intersection of both racial and rational prejudices of the dominant hegemony.
Fiske, L.I. & Briskman, L. 2007, 'Rights and responsibilities: Reclaiming human rights in political discourse', Just Policy, vol. 43, pp. 50-54.
Some of the philosophical and political concepts of rights and responsibilities are explored by considering Australian case examples of policies of responsibility directed at Indigenous Australians and migrants and refugees. By analysing these examples it is proposed that both rights and responsibilities provide a useful schema for critiquing and understanding Australian policies.
Fiske, L.I. 2006, 'Politics of Exclusion, Practice of Inclusion. Australias Response to Refugees and the Case for Community Based Human Rights Work', International Journal of Human Rights, vol. 10, no. 3, pp. 219-229.
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With increasingly exclusionary policies towards refugees and asylum seekers, Australia has experienced major growth in community based refugee support movements. This paper questions whether the nation state remains the best protector of human rights into the future given the increasing movement of people around the globe and the tension between sovereignty rights and the universal nature of human rights. The author proposes that the future hope for human rights protections lie not so much within nation states, but with both global and local actions. The paper uses the example of community based refugee support movements in Australia as a case study.
Ife, J. & Fiske, L.I. 2006, 'Human rights and community work', International Social Work, vol. 49, no. 3, pp. 297-308.
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The links between community development and human rights could be explored further, but the point of this article has been simply to emphasize the commonalities between the two. Indeed, it might be claimed that community development needs a human rights frame- work if it is to be successful, and human rights need a community development framework if they are to be realized. This suggests that social workers, with their understanding of human rights and community development, are potentially impor- tant human rights workers and have much to contribute to the field of human rights. In addition, human rights can be seen as a valid values framework for community development work. As most people experience human rights in the local context, an envir- onment in which social workers are very active and familiar, the familiar activity of day-to-day community work can also be seen as being an important step in creating a human rights-based society.
Fiske, L.I. 2004, '`Marriage of Convenience or a `Match Made in Heaven: Lawyers and Social Workers Working with Asylum Seekers', Australian Journal of Human Rights, vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 137-157.
Asylum seekers face many hurdles during the process of refugee status determination, particularly if they have experienced some form of trauma. By preparing cases as a team, lawyers and social workers can reduce the stress for asylum seekers while at the same time improve the quality of information made available to decision makers within the refugee determination process. This article presents a model which utilises the knowledge and skills that lawyers and social workers are able to bring to working with asylum seekers and assists asylum seekers to present a comprehensive case with a focus both on supporting their credibility and maximizing their ability to actively engage in the process.


Fiske, L.I. & Shackel, R. 2017, 'Internally displaced women: social rupture and political voice', Open Democracy.
Displacement is social as well as geographical. Women's welfare and survival depends significantly on their social relationships; displacement destroys this resource.
Fiske, L.I. 2017, 'Refugee Transit in Indonesia: The Critical Importance of Community', Global Observatory.
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Western nations are in retreat from their traditional willingness to take in refugees. Opportunities for refuge are constricting globally, just as the need for them expands. Indonesia currently hosts around 15,000 refugees in transit. Three distinct refugee journeys are emerging, and community makes a world of difference to refugee transit.
Fiske, L.I. 2016, 'Self-immolation incidents on Nauru are acts of 'hopeful despair'', The Conversation.
The Immigration Minister blamed refugee advocates for encouraging refugees on Nauru to self-immolate as a form of protest. This article refutes these claims and draws on previous research to explain refugee protest, including through suicide and self-harm.
Ramsay, G. & Fiske, L. 2016, 'Election FactCheck: are many refugees illiterate and innumerate?', The Conversation.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton caused instant headlines when he told Sky News many refugees are illiterate and innumerate. This piece fact checks the Minister's assertion.
Fiske, L.I., Kenny, M.A. & Proctor, N. 2015, 'Manus Island hunger strikes are a call to Australia's conscience', The Conversation.
Fiske, L.I. 2015, ''Asylum in Australia' broadcaster: BBC World Have Your Say', BBC.
We speak about immigration and we're joined by Australians, some of whom have been asylum seekers before their families settled in Sydney. They travelled from Afghanistan, Uganda and Indonesia to Australia. We hear their incredible stories. This is our second special show from Australia and we are at The Meat & Cheese Room in Sydney's Opera Bar. Featuring: Dr Lucy Fiske, Professor Elizabeth Elliot, Chris Kenny, Najeeba Wazefadost, Craig Kelly MP, Erin McCallum and Keyhan Faramand.
Fiske, L.I. 2015, 'Australian PM Advises EU on Refugees', Radio New Zealand.
Tony Abbott has told the EU to emulate Australia's refugee policy. We talk to Dr Lucy Fiske of the University of Technology in Sydney about why this is or isn't a good idea.
Fiske, L.I. & Shackel, R. 2013, 'Fieldwork Handbook.', Making Transitional Justice Work for Women..


Fiske, L.I. & Shackel, R. University of Sydney 2016, Making Justice Work for Women. Kenya Country Report, pp. 1-183, Sydney.
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The Kenya Country Report sits in a series of three reports of the findings of 'Making Transitional Justice Work for Women: Rights, Resilience and Responses to Violence Against Women in Democratic Republic of Congo, Northern Uganda and Kenya', funded by Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (2013-2016). It outlines Kenyan women's thoughts about justice, the background and context to violence against women in Kenya, identifies women's justice needs and priorities and analyses justice responses in Kenya.
Fiske, L.I. & Shackel, R. University of Sydney 2016, Making Justice Work for Women. Uganda Country Report., pp. 1-189, Sydney.
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The Uganda Country Report sits in a series of three reports of the findings of 'Making Transitional Justice Work for Women: Rights, Resilience and Responses to Violence Against Women in Democratic Republic of Congo, Northern Uganda and Kenya', funded by Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (2013-2016). It outlines Ugandan women's thoughts about justice, the background and context to violence against women in Uganda, identifies women's justice needs and priorities and analyses justice responses in Uganda.
Fiske, L.I. & Shackel, R. University of Sydney 2016, Making Justice Work for Women. DRC Country Report., pp. 1-174, Sydney.
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The DRC Country Report sits in a series of three reports of the findings of 'Making Transitional Justice Work for Women: Rights, Resilience and Responses to Violence Against Women in Democratic Republic of Congo, Northern Uganda and Kenya', funded by Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (2013-2016). It outlines Congolese women's thoughts about justice, the background and context to violence against women in DRC, identifies women's justice needs and priorities and analyses justice responses in DRC.
Fiske, L.I. & Shackel, R. University of Sydney 2016, Making Justice Work for Women: Uganda Summary Report, Making Justice Work for Women: Uganda Country Report, pp. 1-59, Sydney.
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Fiske, L.I. & Shackel, R. University of Sydney 2016, Making Justice Work for Women. DRC Summary Report., pp. 1-51, Sydney.
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Fiske, L.I. & Shackel, R. University of Sydney 2016, Making Justice Work for Women. Kenya Summary Report., pp. 1-46, Sydney.
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