Lee Rhiannon, a former federal Senator and NSW state MP for the Greens, currently works with a range of communities on campaigns for peace with justice in their counties of origin. Lee has a deep commitment to international solidarity.
Over 50 years Lee has undertaken extensive international work from working as public relations officer with the Ideas Centre – a resource centre on low income countries, setting up AID/WATCH, participating in a major peace delegation to the Philippines in response to the US military operations in Asia, attending global women’s conferences and assisting with solidarity and support for communities from other countries fighting for self-determination.
Kashmir – Lee works closely with Australian representatives of the global organisation, Stand With Kashmir. When Lee was a Senator she spoke in parliament about the struggle of the Kashmir people for self-determination. In 2018 she visited Kashmir and in February 2019 she spoke at an international forum on Kashmir held in the British House of Commons. Since the Modi government’s take over of Kashmir in August 2019 Lee has participated in many protests and forums and she returned to the federal parliament to speak at a forum to oppose India’s actions and in support of self-determination for Kashmir.
India – In 2020 Lee started working closely with The Humanism Project. THP engages with the global Indian diaspora to promote secularism and inclusiveness and counter the hate and extremist policies of sections of the ruling Indian elite. Online global roundtables have been organised to explore these issues.
Kurds – Lee works with the Australian Kurdish community to promote their campaigns and to defend their human rights.
Palestine – Lee has been a longtime supporter of Palestine. She visited the West Bank and Gaza in 2014 and returned to the West Bank in 2017. Lee has supported many Palestinian rights campaigns including the international Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions campaign. As an MP Lee took the Palestinian cause into parliament on many occasions moving motions and speaking about the war crimes and crimes against humanity that Israel is committing against the Palestinian people.
Tamil Eelam – In 2013 Lee visited Sri Lanka as a member of a parliamentary delegation to meet with members of the Tamil community and NGO representatives. The purpose was to gather first hand accounts of the impact the oppression of the Tamil community. Lee was briefly detained by Sri Lankan government authorities during this visit.
Philippines – In 2001 Lee joined an International Peace Mission to Basilan and Zamboanga in the Philippines. The Mission, lead by Walden Bello, was a joint project of Focus on the Global South (Bangkok), Institute for Popular Democracy (Manila) and Transnational Institute Mk(Amsterdam). Despite attacks on the Mission by the then Filipino President Gloria Arroyo, Lee and the delegation judged the work was a success. Human rights violations committed by the Filipino military were exposed by the Mission, which concluded dialogue rather than military confrontation should be pursued.
In 2019 Lee returned to the Philippines as part of a High-Level Delegation of church, union, human rights activists and politicians to investigate the human rights abuses perpetrated by the Duterte government. In 2020 and 2021 Lee served as a High Commissioner on the Investigate PH project, which held independent investigations on human rights violations. IPH also worked to substantiate the 2020 report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on the Philippine rights situation. IPH has prepared a series of reports for the relevant UN bodies.
AID/WATCH – In the early 1990s along with Carol Sherman, Lee founded AID/WATCH. This Australian based NGO exposed numerous abuses of aid funding channelled through the World Bank and various bilateral programs including the assistance given to coal companies that ran to millions of dollars. AID/WATCH campaigned against Australian aid money going to overseas projects that helped boost the profits of Australian companies. The result for local people was often disastrous with a loss of livelihood and massive local environmental damage. In 1994 AID/WATCH organised possibly Australia’s first climate action protest at an AusAID (the then government aid and development agency) sponsored event in Brisbane. Lee was a director of AID/WATCH for six years from 1993 to 1998.
From 1989 to 1991 Lee was the public relations officer for the Ideas Centre, a resource centre and library, specialising in third world, environment and development issues. Lee helped to initiate, organise funding and and manage the Pactok Program that brought information technology training to Pacific and PNG non-government organisations. (Pactok – pidgeon language for Pacific talk)
At different times Lee has also supported the struggles of West Papuans, Kurds, Rohingyas, Papua New Guineas, Bangladeshis, Filipinos, West Saharans and communities in the Pacific and Latin America.
Lee personally funded her travels to the Philippines, Kashmir, Palestine, Sri Lanka and Laos.
Time line of Lee’s international solidarity work
2022 – Member of the International Observer Mission established by the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) to monitor the May 2022 Philippine election. More details – media coverage, final report, television interview.
2020-21 – As a Commission member of INVESTIGATE.PH spoke at the online media conference for Filipino and international journalists about the campaign calling for an independent, international investigation into human rights abuses in the Philippines. Also participated in the Global People’s Initiative organised by the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines.
2020 – Assisted The Humanism Project to organise global roundtables on “Is India becoming a fascist state” and other aspects of the work of the Modi BJP government.
2019 – International Human Rights Mission to the Philippines organised by the International Coalition of Human Rights for the Philippines.
2019 – Spoke at an International Conference on Kashmir held in the British House of Commons on the eve of Kashmir Solidarity Day.
2018 – Visit a range of NGOs and refugee camps in Azad Kashmir.
2018 – Visit to Beirut to meet with representatives of groups working in support of Palestinians right of return and UNRWA.
2017 – Visit to Palestine and Jordan to visit refugee camps and meet with civil society representatives.
2013 – Fact-finding trip to Sri Lanka to investigate alleged human rights abuses and violation of press freedom ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. Lee and New Zealand Greens MP, Jan Logie, were detained by Sri Lankan authorities on the last day of their trip.
2013 – Visit refugee camps in Gaza, West Bank and Beirut and meet with Palestinian NGOs to learn about the struggle for Palestinian self-determination.
2011 – Visit to Laos to meet with NGOs, the Lao government, AusAID and other Australian representatives about Mekong hydro power issues.
2011 – Conference of the Asian Forum for Parliamentarians on Population and Development on sexual and reproductive health issues in the region. Held in Bangkok.
2002 – Member of the International Peace Mission to Basilan organised by Focus on the Global South, Transnational Institute, the Institute for Popular Democracy and Akbayan Citizens’ Action Party. This delegation came together to investigate and report on the United States’ aggressive military actions in the Philippines that were threatening global stability.
1992-98 – Co-founder and Director of AID/WATCH, a member based organisation formed to campaign for Australian aid and trade programs that benefit people and the environment not Australian corporations.
1987 – Delegate to Women’s International Conference. Held in Moscow.
1985 – Delegate to NGO Conference marking the end of the UN’s Decade for Women. Held in Nairobi.
1971 – In London and Sydney attended events protesting against apartheid in South Africa and arrested at a protest against the Springboks at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1971.
Late 1960s – A founding member of High School Students Against Vietnam War and helped organise a number of protests against the Vietnam War including a protest by school students, who bused to Canberra to take their message to the US Embassy and the federal parliament.