ANU honour for Assange lawyer

ANU honour for Assange lawyer

JENNIFER Robinson was talented enough to become one of the lawyers representing Julian Assange. But she may have to shine even brighter if she ever wants to jettison the tag of ''Assange's lawyer''.

The globe-trotting human rights advocate was named joint winner of Australian National University's young alumnus of the year with Sebastian Robertson, founder of Batyr, a non-profit organisation addressing mental health challenges among young people.

Jennifer Robinson, a member of Julian Assange's legal team.

Jennifer Robinson, a member of Julian Assange's legal team.

Photo: Supplied

Ms Robinson has carved out an extensive career, away from the high-profile Assange case.

She has represented exiled West Papuan leader Benny Wenda and has been named a ''pro-bono hero'' by the British government for her voluntary legal work.

Sebastian Robertson.

Sebastian Robertson.


''At the ANU I had looked up to lawyers like Geoffrey Robertson, so it was satisfying that some years later I had the opportunity to work alongside him on major free speech and international human rights cases,'' she said.

''Canberra is often given a hard time but I really enjoyed my time at university there.

''I cannot emphasise how much my time in Indonesia through my ANU program and, in particular, working with a small human rights organisation in West Papua shaped my thinking and my career choices. The double degree program makes for a much more well-rounded, interesting and engaging experience that I think better equips graduates to find their niche, as I think I have.''

Many of Assange's colleagues and supporters have fallen out with him: British socialite Jemima Khan was the latest to publicly criticise him by saying he could become Australia's L. Ron Hubbard.

Ms Robinson said she remained a member of his legal team because free-speech principles were at stake.

I happen to like him - he is incredibly intelligent and brave - and I enjoy working with him. But whether you like him or not, it is the principles involved and the importance of WikiLeaks' work that merit support. I also feel strongly that, as an Australian, he deserves support from Australians - support that certainly has not come from our government."

Treasury Secretary Martin Parkinson and another human rights lawyer, Anne Gallagher, were jointly named alumnus of the year on Saturday night.

Even though his department was being downsized by 20 per cent to 25 per cent, Dr Parkinson, a pragmatic economist aged 54, said he had the best job in the country.

He will meet 37 university graduates on Tuesday, fewer than the 50 or 60 inducted in past years.

Dr Parkinson said graduates taken at Treasury these days tended to forego a master's degree in economics in favour of study in other areas.

It meant they had greater breadth of knowledge and also the need to increase their depth of economics skills.

''We tell them 'aim to change the world but have the humility to know you don't have all the answers','' he said.

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