Zahra Stardust


Queer Thinking Panel Discussion Copy

I am a policy advisor and academic with a background in law, human rights and sexuality. I have worked with NGOs, United Nations bodies, the corporate sector and community organisations. During this time I have focused upon LGBTI rights, criminal law, sexual and reproductive health, HIV prevention, anti-discrimination and gendered violence. I have taught in undergraduate courses on criminology, sociology, gender studies, politics, social sciences and sexology.



My research experience includes two major ethnographic projects including qualitative interviews and legal review as part of my PhD at UNSW and Master of Arts at USYD; working as a Research Assistant in the Law Faculties at both USYD (on gender inequities in health) and UTS (on sexuality in asylum determination) as well as in Social Sciences at UNSW (on animal law reform); and as a Research Officer for the Centre for Social Research in Health conducting focus groups to develop indicators to measure stigma.

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As a policy advisor and analyst I have experience working in sexual and reproductive health, human rights, sex work, HIV and LGBTI health. I have conducted policy work for the United Nations Population Fund, health promotion organisation ACON, and national peak body Scarlet Alliance, conducting consultations, writing policy submissions, preparing briefings to ministerial advisory committees and giving evidence at parliamentary inquiries.

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In international spokesperson and advocacy roles, I have conducted both public advocacy and quiet diplomacy. I have briefed delegates attending the Commission on the Status of Women for UN Women, presented at the Amnesty International Human Rights Forum, and been an invited panelist at the UN Youth Summit on Gender Equality, as well as participating in stakeholder workshops and meeting with politicians and senior policy advisors behind closed doors to negotiate outcomes, source funding and influence decision-making.

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Human Rights


My human rights work includes investigative research on reproductive health for UNFPA in Eritrea; monitoring the Australian Government’s gender and development obligations for UN Women Australia; casework to recover compensation for sexual abuse at Wirringa Baiya Aboriginal Women’s Legal Centre; legal and policy research on Native Title at the Kimberley Land Council; advocating for LGBTI rights with ACON; drafting applications for Ministerial Intervention with the Refugee Advice and Casework Service; undertaking research on international treaty obligations for the Amnesty International Australia NSW Human Rights and Security Network; and speaking at Secondary Schools about animal rights with Animal Liberation.

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As a Postgraduate Teaching Fellow and Associate Lecturer, I have guest lectured in courses on criminology, gender studies, politics, sociology, sexology and social policy. My topics have included Sexuality, Gender and Human Rights (Politics of Human Rights in Australia, UNSW), Intersectionality in the Criminal Justice System (Introduction to Criminology, UNSW), Law, Labour and Ethics in Australian Pornography (Sociology of Gender, University of Wollongong), Lessons From 20 years of Decriminalisation of Sex Work (Culture and Contemporary Sexology, Curtin University), Sex as Performance (Bodies, Sexualities and Identities, USYD), and Anti-Trafficking Policy (Justice and Law Society, University of Queensland).

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Read about my research in international journals including Porn Studies, World Journal of AIDS and Research for Sex Work, books such as Trans/Forming Feminisms (Palgrave), Queer Sex Work (Routledge), The DIY Porn Handbook (Greenery Press), Coming Out Like a Porn Star (ThreeL Media) and Beyond Burning Bras (Praeger), as well as my social commentary in magazines and news media, including The Conversation, Runway and Overland.

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As an invited speaker for diverse audiences around the world including academic staff, industry professionals, human rights delegates, peers and students, I have presented at interdisciplinary conferences, seminars, lectures and community forums, including the International Bar Association conference in Tokyo, World Association for Sexual Health Congress in Singapore, American Association of Geographers in San Francisco and the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives conference in Melbourne. 

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