As the 2013 recipient of the Bond University Alumni Award for Exceptional Community Achievement, international human rights advocate Kirsten Hagon was honoured for more than a decade of campaigning for the rights of refugees around the globe.
Kirsten was presented with her award at a gala ceremony late last year via Skype from Palestine where she currently works with Oxfam.
Since graduating from Bond in 2000 with a double degree in Law and International Relations, Kirsten has lived and worked in Sudan, Uganda, Egypt, the Ivory Coast, and now Palestine, and spent time working in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Chad, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Haiti.
A large focus of her work has been to provide legal support and frameworks for displaced persons – something she discovered a passion for as a fresh-faced university graduate.
Starting her career with a graduate position at Malleson Stephen Jaques, Kirsten spent her spare time volunteering as a community speaker with the Australian Red Cross’ International Humanitarian Law Unit, providing pro bono legal aid to asylum seekers, as a media spokesperson for Amnesty International’s Victorian Refugee team and setting up a refugee legal aid project with the Queensland Public Interest Clearing House.
Being selected as the Australian Youth Delegate to address the United Nations’ 56th General Assembly in 2001 ignited a strong interest in international diplomacy. Kirsten went on to study her Masters at Cambridge, specialising in International and Human Rights Law, and secured an internship in Geneva with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
Having since worked with various non-government organisations and United Nations agencies in various conflict and post-conflict zones around the globe, her most recent assignment was with Oxfam International’s New York office where she served for three years as Oxfam’s representative to the UN and Global Humanitarian Policy Lead.
On a daily basis, Kirsten engaged with UN Security Council member States, the UN Department of Peace Keeping and the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on issues relating to humanitarian assistance, international humanitarian law, human rights and refugee law.
In late 2013 she moved to Palestine where she has conducted trainings for aid workers, engaged in field research in Gaza and the West Bank, conducted a review of one aid agency’s advocacy response to the Syrian crisis and recently started working with Oxfam in a policy development and management capacity.
“Like most of my colleagues, I often feel my contribution is just a drop in the ocean, but I believe it’s worth doing and have learnt to appreciate the small successes,” said Kirsten.
“Receiving the Alumni Award from Bond has reminded me what a great job their academics do in exposing students to all the different career options available.
“It is important for young law students to learn that it’s just as valid to be a legal aid lawyer as it is to work for a big corporate firm and that success is not just about how much money you make, but it can also be about the people’s lives you change for the better.”