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(Sydney) – Human Rights Watch is launching its first-ever office in Australia on August 28, 2013, with the aim to increase its engagement and advocacy with the Australian government on human rights issues in the Asia-Pacific region and elsewhere.

The office, in Sydney, will be led by Human Rights Watch’s new Australia director, Elaine Pearson. Originally from Perth, Pearson has worked as deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch since 2007. Pearson is an expert on human trafficking and migration issues and has previously worked for the United Nations and Anti-Slavery International.

“Australia has not quite lived up to its potential for promoting human rights in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond,” said Pearson. “Our office will encourage the new government to set a foreign policy agenda that makes human rights a priority.”

Australia’s national election will take place September 7. The leadership of the two major political groups, the ruling Australian Labor Party and the main opposition, the Coalition, an alliance between the Liberal Party and National Party, have not made human rights a significant  part of their foreign policy platforms, Human Rights Watch said. Much of the foreign policy discussion has been a troubling focus on shifting Australia’s responsibilities for refugee protection to nearby Pacific region countries.

“Australia’s two major parties have been dragging their feet on a human rights foreign policy instead of seeking to raise Australia’s voice in the region and in the world,” Pearson said. “Human Rights Watch’s new office will work with our Australian supporters and the media to press the government to take action on rights abuses wherever they occur.”

Human Rights Watch is a nonprofit, nongovernmental human rights organization made up of more than 400 staff members around the globe. The staff consists of human rights professionals including country experts, lawyers, journalists, and academics of diverse backgrounds and 47 nationalities. Established in 1978, Human Rights Watch is known for its accurate fact-finding, impartial reporting, and effective use of media to highlight human rights abuses, and targeted advocacy to bring them to an end. It works in close partnership with local human rights groups worldwide. Each year, Human Rights Watch publishes some 100 reports and hundreds more briefings on human rights conditions in approximately 90 countries, generating extensive coverage in national and international media. Because of their expertise, Human Rights Watch researchers and analysts are often asked to brief governments, the United Nations, and journalists.

Human Rights Watch has long engaged with the Australian government in Canberra and at embassies abroad on domestic and foreign human rights concerns. 

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