Julian Redmond Murphy ’18 LL.M.
2017 – 2018 Human Rights Fellow
After he finished his undergraduate degree in law and English literature at the University of Melbourne in 2013, Julian Redmond Murphy ’18 LL.M. sought work at the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency, which provides legal services to Indigenous people in the country’s remote Northern Territory.
The agency wasn’t able to hire Murphy at the time, but that didn’t deter him. He packed up his things and moved to the territory, which he described as “a cross between Alaska and the Deep South” in the United States.
“I told them I would go up there and work for free,” he recalled. He did just that and a few months later, the agency brought him on staff. By the time he left three years later, he was acting regional managing solicitor.
Murphy often worked 12- to 15-hour days, six or seven days a week at the agency, which handles civil cases and acts as a sort of public defender’s office, offering representation in criminal cases— mostly alcohol- and substance-abuse related.
“It’s important that these people—who are disadvantaged in so many other parts of their lives and, by virtue of those disadvantages, are more likely to come into contact with the criminal justice system—get as close to good representation as someone who has a whole lot of money,” he said.
Murphy, who has written law journal articles about Indigenous incarceration and other issues, said he often felt like he was putting a Band-Aid on a systemic problem.
“But it also felt like a really important part of the solution,” he said.
As a Human Rights Fellow at Columbia Law School, Murphy is focusing on the bigger picture—theories of social change and social movements—so he will be better equipped to shape policy outside the courtroom.
Among other courses, he’s taking the Racial Justice Advocacy Workshop with Professor Katherine M. Franke and a seminar called The Psychology of Racial Justice and Policing, which is listed jointly at Columbia, the City University of New York, and New York University.
Murphy said he was drawn to Columbia Law School for its human rights and clinical focus.
“It seemed like the University was really concerned about not being an ivory tower,” he said. “And my perception has been absolutely borne out. My professors all seem very much committed to change.”