Ruth Barson - Director of Legal Advocacy


Ruth Barson has worked to advance the human rights of people enmeshed in the criminal justice system for over a decade. She leads the Centre’s work advocating for the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and children and adults in jails across Australia.

Ruth’s recent work includes High Court challenges to excessive police lock-up powers; and state and territory Supreme Court challenges to unfair imprisonment and detention laws. Ruth has also led the Centre’s advocacy in relation to youth justice; deaths in custody; inhuman conditions in detention; and racial inequality in the criminal justice system.

Before joining the HRLC, Ruth worked as a senior policy lawyer at the Centre for Innovative Justice where she delivered a comprehensive report on reforming the criminal justice system’s response to sexual assault. Prior to this, Ruth spent over four years working with the Aboriginal Legal Services in Western Australia and in the Northern Territory where she focused on youth justice and prisoner rights. She has also worked as a criminal defence lawyer with Victoria Legal Aid and a legal advisor to government.

Ruth’s international experience includes supporting the work of the Supreme Court Chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia – the United Nations backed court responsible for prosecuting senior members of the Khmer Rouge. She has consulted to Open Society Foundations on strategies to reduce the risk of torture and mistreatment in police custody and received a scholarship to attend Open Society Foundations’ Strategic Human Rights Litigation summer school.

Ruth has a Masters of Laws (with a focus on criminology) from the University of Sydney and a Masters of International Human Rights Law from the University of Oxford. She is currently completing a community research fellowship with the University of Melbourne where she is investigating the over use of solitary confinement in Australia.

Ruth is on the board of the Women’s Legal Service Victoria and is a member of the Law Institute of Victoria’s Human Rights Committee.



The dignity of people behind bars should never be negotiable                                                          The Sydney Morning Herald December 17 2017

Royal commission findings on youth detention will be national moment of reckoning                    The Sydney Morning Herald November 11 2017

The real crisis facing Victoria's youth justice system
The Sydney Morning Herald December 31 2016

The brutal images that have defined 2016 for Indigenous Australia
The Sydney Morning Herald December 22 2016

We now have a Premier who makes no apologies for disregarding the human rights of children
The Age December 6 2016

The youth justice system is a slippery slope of failure
The Sydney Morning Herald July 26 2016

Ms Dhu's death in custody: The shocking footage that Australia needs to see
The Sydney Morning Herald September 26 2016

We’ve been silent on injustice for too long
The Canberra Times May 25 2016

Western Australians should not tolerate injustice
The West Australian April 29 2016

Holocaust remembrance teaches lessons for humanity
The Sydney Morning Herald January 19 2016

Ms Dhu inquest: Western Australia must come to terms with some hard truths
The Sydney Morning Herald December 3 2015

Reining in the NT's paperless arrests is progress towards Indigenous liberty
The Guardian November 12 2015

Australian prisons need to improve to measure up to the UN's Mandela Rule
The Sydney Morning Herald October 29 2015

Justice targets needed to reduce indigenous disadvantage
The Canberra Times December 3 2014

Aboriginal deaths in custody must end
The Australian November 3 2014