Public lectures by international worker for civil liberties

Published 20 April 2012

Michelle Brooks, a visiting British researcher and worker for the protection of civil liberties among marginalised populations, will give free public lectures at the University of New England on the 26th of April and the 1st of May.

Ms Brooks’s research informs new laws in the UK that will enhance legislative frameworks to protect Muslim women. She will discuss this project in her lecture on Tuesday 1 May, titled “In other worlds – belonging and security among women of global Islam”.

She has worked with women in Muslim communities in Sri Lanka and the UK, and found that the Sri Lankan women had far greater “voice” in the community than the women in the UK. The key to this difference, she found, was “the percolation of an erroneous and devastating exegesis of the Qur’an in the UK, and the subsequent tolerance of violence and oppression of women from within communities”. “These data have been shown in the House of Lords in the UK,” she said, “to evidence the pressing need for action to protect women in this group”.

In both Sri Lanka and the UK Ms Brooks (pictured here) worked with organisations that, she said, aimed “to protect communities while also providing government with sustainable strategies for migration, settlement, and conflict resolution”.

This lecture will be at 5.30 pm in Lecture Theatre 2 in UNE’s Education Building. Everyone is welcome.

In her lecture on Thursday 26 April she will discuss her project in the slums of the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo – urban areas that the government plans to “gentrify”, involving the relocation of the residents. “The project mapped kinship networks in an effort to work with government to effect a more sustainable and humanitarian relocation plan that protects networks of support, opportunities for employment and education, and mobility,” she said.

“This project responded,” she explained, “to what is, in effect, a slow-onset disaster: government plans that would disperse a very connected and inter-dependent community from the core to the periphery of the city. I enabled the residents to record their social capital, showing that the plans that are articulated as an answer to poverty would in fact make the people poorer. Losing your community constitutes a massive capital loss – especially in a world where all you have is each other.”

This lecture, titled “The place we make together – mapping networking capital in the Colombo slums”, will be delivered at Drummond and Smith College at 6 pm and will be the College’s D.H. Drummond Memorial Lecture for 2012. Members of the public wishing to attend should contact the College on (02) 6773 6700 or e-mail The lecture will precede a dinner for College members and invited guests.