Melissa Parke (born 11 August 1966) is a former Australian Labor Party politician and UN human rights lawyer, who served as Member for the federal electoral Division of Fremantle in the Australian House of Representatives from 2007 to 2016. In 2013 Parke was appointed by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd as Minister for International Development and served in that capacity until Labor lost government later that year.

Melissa Parke
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Fremantle
In office
24 November 2007 – 9 May 2016
Preceded byCarmen Lawrence
Succeeded byJosh Wilson
Minister for International Development
In office
1 July 2013 – 18 September 2013
Prime MinisterKevin Rudd
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded bySteven Ciobo (2015)
Personal details
Born (1966-08-11) 11 August 1966 (age 57)
Donnybrook, Western Australia
Political partyLabor
Alma materCurtin University
Murdoch University
University of New South Wales
OccupationLawyer
Websitewww.melissaparke.com.au

Prior to entering politics, Parke worked as a lawyer for the United Nations. Between 1999 and 2007 she worked for the UN in Kosovo, Lebanon, Gaza, and New York. She also worked as a law lecturer at Murdoch University, the principal solicitor at the Bunbury Community Legal Centre, and in private legal practice in Sydney and Western Australia.

She retired from politics at the 2016 federal election.[1] In September 2017 Parke was appointed as an Ambassador for the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).[2] In October 2017 ICAN was announced as the winner of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for its role in achieving the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.[3] She was appointed Executive Director of ICAN in 2023.[4]

In December 2017, and again in 2018, 2019 and 2020, Parke was appointed by the UN Human Rights Commissioner to the "Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen", to investigate human rights violations in Yemen.[5]

In April 2019, she was selected by the Australian Labor Party to contest the federal seat of Curtin, but stepped down from her candidacy following a media campaign against her because of her advocacy for Palestinian rights.[6]

Background and early career

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Parke grew up in the south-west of Western Australia on her parents' apple farm in Donnybrook. She attended public schools in Donnybrook and Bunbury and completed a Bachelor of Business (with Distinction) at Curtin University in 1989. This was followed by a law degree at the University of New South Wales and subsequently in 1998 a Master of Laws (LLM) in public international law at Murdoch University where she lectured in 1999.

From 1990 to 1994 Parke worked in law offices in Sydney and Bunbury and from 1994 to 1997 as solicitor-in–charge at the Bunbury Community Legal Centre. It was during this period that she unsuccessfully contested the WA Legislative Assembly seat of Mitchell for Labor at the 1996 election.

Over the years Parke's community activities have included acting as a Western Australian representative on the National Council of the Australian Conservation Foundation, as the spokesperson for the Communities for Coastal Conservation, and serving on the management committee of the Waratah Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Referral Centre.[7]

United Nations

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Parke began her employment as an international lawyer with UNMIK, the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Kosovo from 1999 to 2002 and subsequently worked in Gaza with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) from 2002 to 2004.

In 2004 Parke became a legal adviser in the Office of the Under-Secretary-General for Management in the UN headquarters, New York. In this role, Parke was responsible for aspects of management reform and for the provision of advice and oversight in respect of the UN system of justice administration.

In 2005 and 2006, Parke was seconded from the Department of Management to establish the new UN Ethics Office, laying the foundations for a permanent unit within the UN that would eventually serve 29,000 personnel worldwide in relation to issues of ethics, transparency and good governance.[8]

From mid-2006 to early 2007, Parke worked as the deputy chief of staff and legal adviser in the UN International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC) in Beirut, Lebanon, investigating the assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri and other terrorist attacks in Lebanon.

Parke returned to her post in New York in early 2007 and left the United Nations in June of that year to return to Fremantle, Australia to stand for federal parliament.

Political career

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Parke was first elected as the Member for the Division of Fremantle in the 2007 Australian federal election. Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke campaigned in Fremantle with Parke and the retiring MP Carmen Lawrence.[9][10] She was re-elected in the 2010 Australian federal election[11] and again in the 2013 Australian federal election.[12] Some notable achievements include negotiating the return of Cantonment Hill from the Australian Defence Force to the City of Fremantle[13] and organising a community cabinet forum in Fremantle in March 2011 attended by prime minister Julia Gillard and key cabinet ministers.[14]

In June 2011 Parke publicly raised concerns about the government's proposal to send asylum-seeker children to Malaysia and in July 2011 Parke was one of nine backbenchers to raise concerns about the government's decision to resume the live export of cattle to Indonesia after the ABC Four Corners program exposed cruel and inhumane treatment of Australian cattle in Indonesian abattoirs.[15]

In February 2013 Parke was promoted to Parliamentary Secretary for Mental Health, Homelessness and Social Housing.[16]

Parke has previously sat on the Joint Standing Committee for Foreign Affairs, Defence, and Trade,[17] the Joint Standing Committee for Treaties,[18] and the Joint Statutory Committee: Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity.[19]

Kevin Rudd appointed Parke as Minister for International Development in his second ministry, a role she served in until Labor lost office in September 2013.[20]

In 2013 Parke was a joint recipient of the Alan Missen award for integrity, awarded by the Accountability Round Table once every three years.[21]

On 22 January 2016, Parke announced her retirement at the next federal election, to spend more time with her family, following her marriage to Perth businessman and patron of the arts, Warwick Hemsley.[1]

In April 2019, she was selected by the Australian Labor Party to contest the federal seat of Curtin in the 2019 federal election. This seat had been held by former Deputy Liberal Leader Julie Bishop since 1998. Parke withdrew her candidacy for the seat following negative media coverage after she was reported to have told a meeting that Israel's treatment of Palestinians was "worse than the South African system of apartheid". She said her views regarding Palestine-Israel were well known but that she did not want them to be a "distraction from electing a Labor government which will take urgent and strong action on climate change".[6][22]

Post-politics

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In September 2017 Parke was appointed as an Ambassador for ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons).[2] In October 2017 ICAN was announced as the winner of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for its role in achieving the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.[3]

In December 2017, and again in 2018 and 2019, Parke was appointed by the UN Human Rights Commissioner to the "Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen", to investigate human rights violations in Yemen.[5]

In 2019, Parke was elected to the Governing Body of development organisation BRAC, the world's largest NGO.[23]

In January 2020, Parke sued Liberal MP Dave Sharma for defamation over a tweet in which he accused her of antisemitism and "trafficking in conspiracy theories". She also sued Colin Rubenstein, executive director of the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council, and the West Australian and Herald Sun newspapers, over a press release from Rubenstein and stories run in the West Australian and Herald Sun that she alleged defamed her.[24] On 8 January 2020 the West Australian published an apology and published an article by Parke.[25] On 26 March 2020, the Herald Sun printed an apology to Parke and published her op-ed entitled Criticism Not Same As Racism.[26] In October 2020, the Federal Court ruled that Parke was entitled to take up an earlier settlement offer from David Sharma despite initially rejecting it, and the case was consequently dismissed.[27] In mid-April 2021, Parke withdrew her lawsuit against Rubenstein after the AIJAC executive director released a public statement acknowledging that Parke was not an antisemite or any of the other defamatory implications Parke objected to in Rubenstein's April 2019 press releases, and that he regretted the significant distress he had caused.

In August 2021 Parke was appointed as Chair of the Western Australian Museum Board of Trustees.[28]

Parke was awarded the Jeruslaem (Al Quds) Peace Prize by the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network (APAN) in 2022, in recognition of her tireless advocacy for Palestinian human rights and justice.[29]

In August 2023, Parke was announced as the new Executive Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.[4]

References

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  1. ^ a b "Fremantle MP Melissa Parke to quit federal politics". ABC News. 22 January 2016. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  2. ^ a b "ICAN Australia". Facebook. Retrieved 27 August 2020.
  3. ^ a b "The Nobel Peace Prize 2017". NobelPrize.org. Retrieved 27 August 2020.
  4. ^ a b "Former MP Melissa Parke to lead anti-nuclear weapons campaign". ABC Radio National. 11 August 2023. Retrieved 12 August 2023.
  5. ^ a b "OHCHR | Yemen: Zeid appoints group of eminent international and regional experts". www.ohchr.org. Retrieved 27 August 2020.
  6. ^ a b "Star Labor candidate Melissa Parke quits over Israel claims". The Australian. 13 April 2019. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
  7. ^ Black, David (18 December 2006). "Melissa Parke, Member for Fremantle 2007-". The Federal Electorate of Fremantle - a history since 1901. John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library. Retrieved 15 October 2020.
  8. ^ "United Nations Office of Ethics". United Nations. Retrieved 13 February 2013.
  9. ^ "Hawke denies Labor is 'cocky' in lead up to election". ABC News. 25 September 2007. Retrieved 15 October 2020.
  10. ^ "WA Division – Fremantle". Australian Electoral Commission. Retrieved 30 November 2007.
  11. ^ "WA Division – Fremantle". Australian Electoral Commission. Retrieved 19 May 2011.[permanent dead link]
  12. ^ "WA Division – Fremantle". Australian Electoral Commission. Retrieved 20 March 2014.
  13. ^ "Contonment Hill Returned". Australian Labor Party. Archived from the original on 14 April 2011. Retrieved 19 May 2011.
  14. ^ "Community Cabinet Meeting". Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. Archived from the original on 22 April 2011. Retrieved 19 May 2011.
  15. ^ "Backbencher revolt over lifting live export ban". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 20 July 2011.
  16. ^ "Parliamentary Secretary". Australian Parliament House. Archived from the original on 27 January 2013. Retrieved 5 February 2013.
  17. ^ "Joint Standing Committee for Foreign Affairs, Defence, & Trade". Australian Parliament House. Archived from the original on 3 June 2011. Retrieved 19 May 2011.
  18. ^ "Joint Standing Committee for Treaties". Australian Parliament House. Archived from the original on 2 June 2011. Retrieved 19 May 2011.
  19. ^ "Joint Statutory Committee: Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity". Australian Parliament House. Archived from the original on 1 June 2011. Retrieved 19 May 2011.
  20. ^ "Melissa Parke appointed Minister for International Development". Archived from the original on 5 July 2013. Retrieved 28 July 2013.
  21. ^ Gordon, Michael (12 December 2013). "Melissa Parke and Judi Moylan win parliamentary integrity awards". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 9 April 2020.
  22. ^ "'Worse than apartheid': Labor candidate quits election race over Israel comments". ABC News. 12 April 2019. Retrieved 15 April 2019.
  23. ^ "How BRAC, the world's biggest charity, made Bangladesh richer". The Economist. ISSN 0013-0613. Retrieved 9 April 2020.
  24. ^ Witbourn, Michaela (20 January 2020). "Former Labor MP sues Liberal MP Dave Sharma for defamation over tweet". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 8 November 2020. Retrieved 27 March 2020.
  25. ^ "MELISSA PARKE.-"Support for Palestinian rights is not anti-Semitic" (The West Australian 8.1.2020)". John Menadue - Pearls and Irritations. 12 January 2020. Archived from the original on 3 March 2021. Retrieved 9 April 2020.
  26. ^ Parke, Melissa (26 March 2020). "Criticism not same as racism". Herald Sun. Retrieved 27 March 2020.
  27. ^ "Parke v Rubenstein [2020] FCA 1466 (14 October 2020)". austlii.edu.au. Retrieved 14 October 2022.
  28. ^ "Media Statements - New board members appointed to Western Australian Museum". www.mediastatements.wa.gov.au. Archived from the original on 18 October 2022. Retrieved 18 October 2022.
  29. ^ "Laureate Hon. Melissa Parke 2022 Jerusalem (Al Quds) Peace Prize". Australia Palestine Advocacy Network - APAN. Retrieved 8 January 2023.
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Parliament of Australia
Preceded by Member for Fremantle
2007–2016
Succeeded by
Political offices
New ministerial post Minister for International Development
2013
Ministry abolished