Dr Laura Smith-Khan is a Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Technology, Sydney. Commencing in January 2019, her research explores how Australian migration lawyers and agents communicate with and on behalf of their clients.
Laura's doctoral research (conducted at Macquarie University and supervised by Professor Ingrid Piller and Dr Daniel Ghezelbash) explored credibility, language and communication in Australia’s refugee policy, procedures and public discourse. She has published and presented her research across a number of media, both in Australia and overseas.
She has also conducted multi-site fieldwork across six countries, researching disability in refugee camps and urban refugee settings. With Chief Investigators, Professors Mary Crock, Ron McCallum and Ben Saul, from the Sydney Centre for International Law, Sydney Law School, she has presented the project findings at the United Nations, at conferences in Australia, Europe and North America, and in published reports, peer-reviewed articles and book chapters. In 2017, Laura and the team published a book that brings together the project’s major findings. In 2018, Laura was commissioned to prepare a background paper for UNESCO's Global Education Monitoring Report. Laura is also a regular contributor to the online research portal, Language on the Move.
Laura holds a Bachelor of Arts (Languages) (Distinction) and a Bachelor of Laws (Hons) (University of Sydney), a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice (Australian National University) and a Master in Applied Linguistics (Monash University). She has been admitted as a legal practitioner in the NSW Supreme Court and has worked with refugees in a para-legal and pro-bono capacity. She has taught courses in Public International Law, Human Rights and Global Governance, Refugee Law and Policy, and Common Law and Legal Reasoning at Sydney Law School and Macquarie Law School, and assisted with research at Macquarie Law School and postgraduate and undergraduate assessments in the Department of Linguistics, Macquarie University.
Can supervise: YES
Migration law, procedures and communication
International human rights law, refugee rights and disability rights
Social justice and the law
Critical Discourse Studies
Ethics Law and Justice
Engaging and thought-provoking, this book will captivate any scholar studying international law, development, disability rights and refugee and forced migration studies.
This article examines how communicative resources affect the construction of credible texts and identities in a public debate on Australia's treatment of a refugee. It centres on two key written statements—one from the Immigration Minister, and another from a Somali refugee. The analysis is divided into four levels, exploring the parties' respective linguistic, material, identity, and platform resources, and how these impact their statements' creation and reception, and their participation in discourse creation more generally. The article finds that there are inequalities on all four resource levels that largely undermine the refugee's ability to present a credible text and identity and challenge mainstream discourse on refugees. The article demonstrates how a multi-level analysis of communicative resources can challenge assumptions about participation and uncover inequalities invisible in the prevailing discourse
This article explores public debates about credibility in media discourse regarding a Somali refugee who was raped on Nauru. Given the pseudonym 'Abyan', she was living on Nauru as a result of Australian refugee policy and was brought to Australia for medical assistance. Her treatment by the Australian authorities became the subject of debate and was widely discussed in the Australian media. Analyzing a corpus of media articles reporting and commenting on this debate, this article explores how the media's representations of the key actors shape their credibility. Reflecting existing research, this article finds that Abyan's experience is used to support broader policy arguments. Further, the discourse presents Abyan as a key speaker, despite her limited ability to defend her credibility. The article concludes that credibility remains an important theme in discourse on refugees and that power asymmetries hidden within this discourse create obstacles for those wishing to challenge it.
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) creates duties for States Parties and UN agencies to ensure that individuals under their protection have equal enjoyment of the full range of human rights. This includes the Article 25 right to enjoy 'the highest attainable standard of health without discrimination on the basis of disability.' However, refugees, who are forced to seek protection outside their state, face particular obstacles to maintaining an adequate level of wellbeing and accessing services to meet their health needs. Among this group, those who have a disability may confront multiple intersecting challenges.
This paper draws on the findings of research across countries that play host to significant refugee populations. It explores the contribution of the CRPD to the international human rights framework for refugees, with particular attention to the right to health. Incorporating evidence from the field, it discusses the implementation of these rights and related duties in humanitarian responses across the world. The article discusses common barriers to health services for refugees with disabilities in six host countries. Based on the broad conceptualization of health and wellbeing established in the international legal framework, it also examines the relationship between the fulfilment of Article 25 and other basic socioeconomic rights. It provides examples of good practice and identifies strategies to better ensure the rights set out in Article 25 of the CRPD.
Smith-Khan, L 2017, 'Different in the same way? Language, diversity, and refugee credibility', International Journal of Refugee Law, vol. 29, no. 3, pp. 389-416.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
© The Author (2017). Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. There is a growing awareness of the challenges associated with communicating and decision making in the intercultural setting of refugee status determination processes. However, the way institutions conceptualize diversity has significant implications for how accommodating these processes will actually be of diversity, including in credibility assessments - a key component of many asylum regimes. This article aims to explore how Australian guidance on credibility for refugee review decision makers discursively presents diversity, and the impacts this has on decisions in which asylum seekers' credibility is a central concern. With reference to institutional guidelines, it identifies how applicants for asylum use the issue of diversity when seeking to overcome credibility issues, and how decision makers respond to this. The article argues that, far from fairly accommodating all the diverse participants who must navigate these procedures, institutional discourse on diversity can create obstacles for applicants when it comes to maintaining or re-establishing their credibility. It finds that this is due to clashes between the way the merits review tribunal understands diversity, and the way it is conceptualized and presented by applicants when explaining their experiences and motivations, and when challenging structural and communicative barriers threatening their credibility. It shows that decision makers and applicants are constructed as different types of people, with the latter assumed to be affected by, and inextricably tied to, their social and cultural difference, while the former are assumed to represent a 'normal' or neutral way of being and thinking.
Smith-Khan, L 2017, 'Telling stories: Credibility and the representation of social actors in Australian asylum appeals', DISCOURSE & SOCIETY, vol. 28, no. 5, pp. 512-534.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Smith-Khan, L 2017, 'Negotiating narratives, accessing asylum: Evaluating language policy as multi-level practice, beliefs and management', MULTILINGUA-JOURNAL OF CROSS-CULTURAL AND INTERLANGUAGE COMMUNICATION, vol. 36, no. 1, pp. 31-57.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Smith-Khan, L, Crock, M, Saul, B & McCallum, R 2015, 'To 'Promote, Protect and Ensure': Overcoming Obstacles to Identifying Disability in Forced Migration', JOURNAL OF REFUGEE STUDIES, vol. 28, no. 1, pp. 38-68.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Smith-Khan, L, Crock, M, McCallum, R & Saul, B 2015, ''Up to now I am suffering': justice, sexual violence and disability amongst refugees in Uganda', International Journal of Migration and Border Studies, vol. 1, no. 4, pp. 348-348.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Smith-Khan, L 2013, 'Overcoming Barriers to Education for Refugees with Disabilities', Migration Australia, vol. 3.
Smith-Khan, L 2012, 'Genuine Improvement or Paying Lip Service? Conquering the Communication Complexities in Protection Assessments', Migration Australia, vol. 2, pp. 58-62.
Crock, M & Smith-Khan, L 2016, 'Swift and systematic? Identifying and recording disability in forced migration' in Altman, B (ed), International Measurement of Disability Purpose, Method and Application, Springer, Switzerland.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
This volume provides an informed review of the accomplishments of the Washington Group on Disability Statistics (WG) in the provision of international data and statistics on disability.
Smith-Khan, L 2019, 'Debating refugee credibility'.
Smith-Khan, L 2019, ''Oh, the places you'll go!' Reflecting on my PhD journey'.
Smith-Khan, L 2018, 'In search of a language and an identity'.
Smith-Khan, L 2018, 'Schooling challenges of multilingual children'.
Smith-Khan, L 2018, 'Refugee discourse, the media and communicative resources: the case of 'Abyan''.
Smith-Khan, L 2018, 'Interview on Breakfast with Joanne Shoebridge', ABC Radio North Coast.
Smith-Khan, L 2017, 'Are we all different in the same way?'.
Smith-Khan, L 2017, 'Forgotten and Invisible? The legal protection of refugees with disabilities'.
Smith-Khan, L 2017, 'Telling stories? Credibility in asylum interviews'.
Smith-Khan, L 2016, 'Crucial communication: Language Management in Australian asylum interviews'.
Smith-Khan, L 2016, 'Different in the same way? Accommodating language, culture and disability in refugee assessment procedures and humanitarian assistance'.
invited seminar presentation, co-hosted by Leicester Migration Network and the Unit for Diversity, Inclusion & Community Engagement
Smith-Khan, L 2016, 'Truly deserving? Credibility assessment in Australia refugee procedures'.
Smith-Khan, L 2015, 'Discrimination by any other name: Language tests and racist migration policy in Australia'.
Smith-Khan, L 2015, 'Don't know what 'jurisdictional error' means? Some people's future depends on it'.
Smith-Khan, L 2015, 'We all have a culture, we all speak a language: the Australian legal system discusses diversity'.
Smith-Khan, L 2015, 'Fair go? Communication and credibility in Australian asylum procedures'.
Smith-Khan, L, Crock, M & McCallum, R 2015, 'Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Response: Case Studies and Good Practices'.
Side panel presentation, hosted by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Smith-Khan, L 2015, 'Interviewing refugees with disabilities: How context affects communication'.
Tong, K 2013, 'Asylum Seekers: A Compassionate Approach', Hope 103.2FM.
Abbas, F 2013, ''Laura committed to improve procedures to identify, protect refugees with disabilities'', Pakistan Special, pp. 5-5.
Interview (cover story) for Pakistan Special
Smith-Khan, L, Crock, M & Sario, K 2012, 'To 'Promote, protect and ensure': Overcoming obstacles to identifying disability in displacement situations'.
Smith-Khan, L, 'Susanne van der Kleij, Interaction in Dutch asylum interviews: A Corpus study of interpreter-mediated institutional discourse. LOT dissertation series. 2015, Netherlands Graduate School of Linguistics/Landelijke (LOT) (book review)', Linguist List.