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International Justice Initiative

About us

The International Justice Initiative enables students to experience the practice of international law and policy first-hand, through legal research, analysis and service in the public interest.

It empowers a group of UTAS law students to tackle diverse issues of justice in the international arena, by contributing to the work of influential organisations and alumni on contemporary issues of international law.

The Initiative has four main objectives:

  • Advancing the practice of international law in the public interest
  • Providing students with opportunities in international law and policy
  • Supporting poor and vulnerable countries and groups with pro-bono advice
  • Further strengthening the UTAS Law School's international profile

Student achievements have included supporting poor and vulnerable countries at United Nations meetings, contributing to new international initiatives, and press coverage by major international media.

The Initiative is student-led, and builds on a background of successful participation by UTAS students and alumni in international processes, and ongoing engagement with faculty and alumni.

Students are invited to apply to participate at the start of each academic year.

In the News
International Justice Initiative: 2018 in Review


The International Justice Initiative aims to provide opportunities for students with a strong social-justice and public-interest orientation to engage in the substance and practice of international law.

Participating students have the opportunity to:

  • Undertake research to advance international law in the public interest and provide pro-bono support
  • Assist alumni and other experts working in international and public-interest-focused organisations
  • Cooperate to complete research projects under the careful supervision of faculty and/or external advisors
  • Learn about international law-making through ad-hoc seminars by experts in UN and other international processes
  • Receive support in finding and undertaking internship and work experience opportunities with a global reach

The Initiative has also provided a number of opportunities for students to travel abroad and participate in international processes.

UN Climate Change Negotiations

Students have attended United Nations negotiations in Paris, Marrakech and Bonn.

In May 2017, for example, the Initiative sponsored four students to attend the international climate negotiations in Bonn, Germany. The negotiations build on the landmark climate agreement adopted in Paris in 2015.

The two-week trip provided UTAS students with an opportunity to participate in formal multilateral negotiations, and to support developing country negotiators and civil society organizations on a range of issues (see UN Presentation (PDF 1.1MB) and Bonn Report (PDF 9.6MB)).

Students were generously supported by a scholarship provided by the Faculty of Law, Law School Alumni, and a civil society organization staffed by a UTAS alumnus who is supporting the Initiative.

Future work

Building on experiences with international climate change law, opportunities are being explored in areas such as international criminal law, trade law, and fisheries law, in consultation with UTAS faculty and alumni and their networks.


Students involved in the International Justice Initiative have made significant contributions to the development of international law and policy in a range of fields. These include:

  • Supporting new renewable energy initiatives in developing countries by researching existing legal initiatives, and the energy needs and plans of the world’s poorest countries.
  • Providing research support and advice to developing country negotiators on issues of compliance and transparency.
  • Researching the financial needs of developing countries to achieve their pledges under the Paris Climate Agreement, which gained international media attention during its signing ceremony in New York.
  • Conducting research into the position of various organisations on public participation and conflicts of interest, to contribute to an international workshop on this topic, which was covered by the New York Times and other media outlets.
  • Participating in multiple United Nations meetings and providing assistance to negotiating groups representing over 60 countries.

The Initiative has also helped to build connections between UTAS and overseas universities and is further strengthening the Law School’s international profile.


The Initiative was founded in 2016, following the experience of two UTAS students travelling to the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris during December 2015.

The students had conducted research into the negotiations process throughout the year under the guidance of UTAS alumnus Matthew Stilwell – a public interest lawyer and legal advisor to developing countries in the negotiations – and were able to make valuable contributions in the lead up to, and during, the conference.

The Initiative is the result of efforts to bring similar opportunities to engage in international law processes to UTAS law students, to help cultivate the next generation of public interest international lawyers.


People supporting the Initiative include:


Matthew Stilwell

Matthew Stilwell is a Faculty of Law Alumni and public interest lawyer who has counselled governments, international- and non-governmental organizations in multilateral negotiations on trade, climate, energy and sustainable development.

Rebecca Byrnes

Rebecca Byrnes graduated from the University of Tasmania in 2014 and has recently returned from Oxford where she studied masters programs in law and environmental change and management as a Rhodes Scholar. Rebecca has supported poor and vulnerable countries in the international climate negotiations and currently works in renewable energy for the NSW Government.

Brook Dambacher

Brook Dambacher graduated from the University of Tasmania in 2017. She works to support developing countries in the United Nations climate change negotiations as well as on sustainable development initiatives, particularly in the area of renewable energy.

Faculty Advisors

Rick Snell

Rick Snell is an Associate Professor in law at the University of Tasmania. He played a key role in catalysing and supporting the Initiative as Deputy Dean/Deputy Head of Law School.

Matias Thomsen

Matias Thomsen is a PhD candidate at the University of Tasmania. His research is on the role International Criminal Court judges can play in the progressive development of international humanitarian law. He has an on-going relationship as a research assistant with the International Criminal Court.


The Initiative seeks applications from current UTAS law students at the beginning of each year. Positions are limited and are awarded through a competitive, merit-based selection process.

Time commitment

Participants are expected to dedicate an average of 3 hours per week, with the possibility for more or less time depending on the research projects that are being undertaken and student’s university assessment commitments.

Application process

Students will be notified about the application process on an annual basis. Applications for new student participantswill require:

  • A cover letter setting out your motivation to work in the area of public interest international law and why a commitment to the public interest is important in matters of international relations and law, as well as your teamwork ability, and problem solving/strategic thinking skills.
  • A curriculum vitae.

Applications for students reapplying to the Initiative will require:

  • A cover letter setting out your motivation to continue working on the Initiative, reflections on your experience with the Initiative to date and, if applicable, an expression of interest in the student coordinator roles.

Applications should be sent to with the subject title “International Justice Initiative: Expression of Interest”.

Application deadline

Based on the above, applications close at the end of semester 2 each year. The specific date and time, and any additional information on the application process will be provided in the call for applications.

For more information, please contact Brook Dambacher ( or Rebecca Byrnes (