Chief Executive of the Australian Human Rights Commission
Leanne Smith was appointed Chief Executive of the Commission in November 2021. She was most recently Executive Director of the Whitlam Institute within Western Sydney University from 2017-2021.
Leanne is an international human rights lawyer, with a Masters in Public Policy from the School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University where she was also a Religion, Diplomacy and International Relations Fellow, and Law and Public Policy Fellow. She has worked in the Australian judicial system, in the international NGO sector, for regional human rights organisations and as an Australian diplomat (DFAT).
For over a decade she worked in various roles for the United Nations, most recently in New York as Chief of Policy and Best Practices for UN Peacekeeping where she led work on protection of civilians, conflict related sexual violence, women, peace and security, child protection, community engagement and peacebuilding. She also led policy reform, guidance development, lessons learning and good practice for peacekeeping. Leanne also served with the UN in the field – from Afghanistan to the Balkans, Africa to Southeast Asia.
Leanne has published academic papers and articles on Australian foreign policy, the rule of law and development, international human rights and humanitarian law, women, peace and security, human rights in Afghanistan and feminist foreign policy. She is an Adjunct Fellow at the Western Sydney University School of Law, an Advisory Committee member of the Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, a visiting fellow at the ANU Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy and the UNSW Australian Human Rights Centre.
Leanne is Co-Chair of the Australian Lawyers for Human Rights Women and Girls Rights Subcommittee, a member of the Australian Republic Movement National Committee and a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Association of Australia.