UNSW Kaldor Centre Director Jane McAdam, a world expert in human displacement as a consequence of climate change and disasters, has been recognised for her service to international refugee law as part of the annual Queen’s Birthday Honours List.


‘This is well-deserved recognition of Professor McAdam’s pioneering and sustained contribution to the field, and we congratulate her on joining a distinguished group appointed Officer of the Order of Australia (AO),’ said Professor Andrew Lynch, Acting Dean of UNSW Sydney’s Faculty of Law and Justice.  


There are few greater challenges facing the international community today than how to provide safe, durable and legal solutions for those seeking asylum, including forced migrants,’ said Lynch. ‘And Jane McAdam has had a tangible, practical impact on these issues through her own work and through her leadership of UNSW’s Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law.’


Professor McAdam founded the world’s first research centre dedicated to the study of international refugee law at UNSW in 2013 with the mission of informing change with rigorous research. Under her direction, the Kaldor Centre has become a global intellectual powerhouse, producing clear, independent and long-term thinking based on evidence, informed by history, and underpinned by legal principle.


Her own work is at the forefront of global efforts to ensure that people displaced in the context of climate change and disasters are protected. Professor McAdam is actively engaged in key international policy processes, from advising the UN Refugee Agency on its global strategy to providing advice to the Biden Administration about how the US could create protection and resettlement frameworks for people displaced by climate change impacts. Her disaster-displacement work has informed frameworks endorsed by the majority of the world’s governments. She also provides guidance in the Asia-Pacific, a region where systems for protecting displaced people are weak.


The Kaldor Centre under her leadership also supports Australian law and policy reform by interrogating the legal and historical dimensions of refugee policies and devising alternative approaches to the status quo. In addition to her many scholarly publications, Professor McAdam writes for a general audience about Australia’s asylum policy, most recently Refugee Rights and Policy Wrongs (NewSouth 2019), co-written with Fiona Chong. With UNSW Professor Alison Bashford, McAdam is currently researching ‘medico-legal borders’, or restrictions of movement during epidemics and pandemics, with the support of an Australian Research Council grant.


Professor McAdam’s recognition today as part of the Queen’s Birthday Honours List adds to a list of accolades that are as impressive as they are deserved. In 2017 she was awarded the prestigious Calouste Gulbenkian Prize for Human Rights, the first Australian and only the second individual to receive it. She has been a finalist in the NSW Premier’s Award for Woman of the Year, a winner in the ‘global’ category of the 100 Women of Influence award and honoured as one of Australia’s top 10 Women of Influence.


She is a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law. She is also a Research Associate at Oxford University’s Refugee Studies Centre, an Associated Senior Fellow at the Fridtjof Nansen Institute in Norway, and a Senior Research Associate of the Refugee Law Initiative in London and was previously a non-resident Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy at The Brookings Institution in Washington DC (2012–16). She was a Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School in fall 2019 and invited to be a Hauser Global Professor of Law at NYU.



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