Disasters, systems, and human rights: Reflections on a coronial inquiry

William Maley

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    A single death can be a tragedy, but it can also be a disaster, in the sense that disasters reflect a form of systems failure. To demonstrate how this can be the case, this essay draws on a coroner's report on the death of a 24-year old Iranian asylum seeker. Hamid Khazaei taken ill at an Australian-funded offshore detention centre in Papua New Guinea. There is a paradox at the heart of this episode. The policy of offshore detention in remote locations was officially adopted to deter asylum seekers from approaching Australia on on dangerously-fragile boats in search of protection. Yet while the system failed to protect the human rights of Hamid Khazaei, arguably it did so because it succeeded in keeping him out of mainland Australia, in accordance with the "humane" policy objectives of the Australian government, until he was too ill to survive. Systems grounded in the threat to do harm are likely to result in harm.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)5-14
    JournalThe Georgetown Public Policy Review
    Issue numberSpring
    Publication statusPublished - 2019


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