Eileen Pittaway is the Director of the Centre for Refugee Research (CRR) at UNSW. She is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Social Sciences and International Studies, teaching in the Master of Social Development and the Bachelor of Social Work.
Eileen has over 25 years experience working in the field of refugee policy, with a focus on the needs of refugee women and children. In the past two decades decade she has conducted research, provided training to refugees, UN and NGO staff in refugee camps and urban settings, acted as technical advisor and evaluated humanitarian and development projects in Kenya, Thailand, Ethiopia, Bougainville, Egypt, India, Sri Lanka Jordan. Colombia, Uganda, Zambia, Finland and Australia. She was also involved in tsunami relief projects in Sri Lanka. This work has been variously funded by UNHCR, UNFPA, UNIFEM, and the Ford Foundation, the Japan Foundation, the Asia Development Bank, the Australian Research Council and public subscriptions.
In 2001 Eileen was awarded a Human Rights Medal by the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission for her national and international work with Refugee Women and Children. In 2005 she received a NSW Premiers Award for services to Refugee communities in Australia. She is a member of the Asian Women’s Human Rights Council.
Eileen recently completed a major international research project examining the response of the international community to the sexual and gender-based violence experienced by the majority of refugee women and many children, focusing on the “Women at Risk” program in Kenya and on the Thai Burma border.
In 2011, Eileen was included in the book The Power of 100, commissioned by Westpac and launched on the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day to recognise 100 Australian women who have shaped Australia.
Current Research Projects
Refugee women at risk: protection and integration in Australia
Eileen Pittaway, Richard Hugman and Linda Bartolomei, ARC Linkage Project LP0776591 (2007-2010) Australia is resettling a significant number of refugee women at risk from protracted refugee situations. Without an adequate body of theory to inform policy and service provision, service providers are struggling to cope with the additional needs of this group. Through consultations with refugee women and service providers, this research explored the experiences of refugee women at risk resettled to Australia, identified potential risk factors which may affect their ability to integrate successfully and developed a risk assessment and response tool to complement settlement service provision. The research will inform policy and service provision and contribute to a theoretical framework which will guide the process of refugee resettlement.
Building on strength to combat violence: Community based approaches to working with refugee families who are experiencing family, domestic violence and child protection problems
Eileen Pittaway and Linda Bartolomei, Australian National Committee on Refugee Women/Research Grant This project involves working with refugee communities across Australia to determine how they perceive the problems which they are experiencing and solutions which they suggest. Models of service response are then developed and trailed with the communities. AMES Victoria and Relationships Australia NSW are also partners in this project.
Beyond resettlement to sustainable solutions. Improving the protection of refugee women and girls at risk and other vulnerable groups– Trialling community involvement in the expanded use of the UNHCR Heightened Risk Assessment Tool - Jordan
Eileen Pittaway and Linda Bartolomei, Department of Immigration and Citizenship/Displaced Persons Program research grant. This project will develop and trial an innovative community based response to the protection of women and girls at risk. What is unique about the model is that it will draw on the knowledge, skills and capacity of the refugee population to enable them to them to plan and provide services for their own community. It will also evaluate the usefulness of the Heightened Risk Identification Tool in responding to the needs of vulnerable refugees. It will be developed and implemented in partnership with The Community Development, Gender Equality and Children’s Services Section (CDGECS) and UNHCR Amman. The project is based on the principles of human rights, community development and has a focus on livelihoods and sustainable outcomes. Jordan is the UNHCR preferred site for this trial. The model developed will include guidance notes and training materials so that it can be replicated in other refugee sites.
Survivors, Protectors Providers, Dialogues with Refugee and IDP Women and girls in 7 countries
As part of the UNHCR Commemorations of the 60th anniversary of the refugee convention, CRR has been commissioned by UNHCR Geneva to conduct consultations with Refugee and IDP women and girls in India, Jordan, Colombia, Zambia, Uganda, Thailand and Finland, to determine their protection needs. These will inform the pledges which the High Commissioner has asked governments to make at the High Level Ministerial meeting in December. Eileen Pittaway and Linda Bartolomei will be working with refugee women to make presentations at UN meetings in June and December 2011 on this project. The results will inform a Book, “The Global Situation of Refugee Women and Girls”.
An evaluation of community detention on unaccompanied minors in Australia
Funded by DIAC and undertaken under the direction of the Social Policy Research Centre (SPRC) UNSW. Working with SPRC, Eileen will supervise the CRR team who will undertake the qualitative aspects of this project working with the DIAC client groups to evaluate the benefits of community based detention as an alternative to staying in detention centres.
An International Conference to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the Refugee Convention
In June 2011 Eileen will host a large international conference, co-sponsored by UNHCR and the Refugee Council of Australia, DIAC and a number of other community based organisation. This follows a very successful 50th anniversary conference also held at UNSW in 2001. The outcomes of the conference will be taken directly to as series of UNHCR meeting in Geneva. Interns from the Master of Social development and the Bachelor of Social Work will assist with the conference and attend the meetings in Geneva.
Postgraduate Research Supervision
Areas of Supervision
Refugees, refugee policy, violence against women, United Nations, human rights, community development, civil society and the UN
Recent Postgraduate Research Completions
Current Postgraduate Research Supervision
Co-ordination and teaching in the Master Programs of International Social Development, and Refugees and Forced Migration. Her specialities are the Politics of International aid and the relationship between civil society and the United Nations. Eileen also co-convenes the CRR Internship program which takes students from across the University and visiting scholars on supervised field trips to United Nations meetings in New York and Geneva, International Conferences, and to work on projects in refugee camps and sites in several countries.
SOCW4006 Social Policy 2
SOCF5107 Professional Practice Project
SOCW7852 Politics of International Aid
SOCW7885 Social Development Internship
Affiliation and Memberships
Current affiliation and memberships
Past affiliation and memberships
Eileen’s human rights and advocacy related research and activities include:
They were called to use these tools in Sri Lanka, following the 2004 tsunami, when a high incidence of rape and sexual violence occurred in IDP camps and temporary shelters. Eileen continued to work with the Women’s groups in Sri Lanka, with UNFPA and with the Sri Lankan government to develop a policy response to this issue and implement a gendered response in disaster situations until mid 2006. Clear parallels can be drawn between the experience of women in post disaster and women in post conflict situations and refugee camps.
6. Based on this experience, working with supportive governments in New York at the CSW meeting, they were able to draft and introduce a resolution addressing gender issues in the tsunami, ECOSOC Resolution number E/CN.6/2005/L.6 March 2005. It was adopted by consensus by all government.
7. In 2003, 2004 and 2005 human rights documentation training, advocacy training and technical assistance was provided to the Women’s League of Burma. This has assisted them to produce two book, Shattering Silences, and Systems of Impunity, and a number of published advocacy documents (See www.womenofburma.org ). Eileen also assisted them to present their issues at the United Nations Economic and Social Council of the Asia Pacific, September 2004, and at the 49th sitting of Commission for the Status of Women, 2005.