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Melbourne Law School head resigns to pursue refugee issues

Melbourne Law School head resigns to pursue refugee issues

The Dean of Melbourne Law School, Professor James Hathaway, has announced his resignation in order to return to full-time academia and focus on his work as leading global expert on international…

The Dean of Melbourne Law School, Professor James Hathaway, has announced his resignation in order to return to full-time academia and focus on his work as leading global expert on international refugee law.

"Refugee law is the single most effective international rights system in the world today; I feel a deep ethical responsibility to do what I can to avoid its collapse," Hathaway said in a statement announcing his departure.

Hathaway's resignation, effective from February 1, 2010, comes less than halfway through his current five-year term as Dean, following his appointment in early 2008. It also comes after his vocal criticism of the Rudd Government in recent weeks following its attempts to place a boatload of Sri Lankan asylum seekers in Indonesia, claiming the actions were similar to the Howard government's 'Pacific Solution'.

"Just as the Howard government dumped refugees in Nauru, a place where refugee law did not apply, so too has the Prime Minister decided that people exercising their international legal right to seek protection should be forcibly held in Indonesia, another country that refuses to sign the United Nations Refugee Convention," Hathaway wrote in a National Times article last week.

University of Melbourne Vice-Chancellor Professor Glyn Davis thanked Professor Hathaway for his reinvigoration of the law school during his tenure, which included the establishment of exchange partnerships with leading international law schools, including the New York University School of Law and the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and the development of the country's first Legal Research Service.

Speaking to The Australian newspaper, the Canadian-born Hathaway said his resignation was prompted after a conversation with his mother, who asked when he was going to "quit being a bureaucrat and start doing good things for the world again."

While Hathaway is expected to maintain an honorary professorial fellowship at the university, the school will now begin looking for his successor from what is likely to be an international field of candidates.

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