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Helen's professional life has been devoted to strengthening legal protections for many of the world's most vulnerable people, the victims of war. This includes both operational humanitarian missions with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and as an advocate on humanitarian affairs within Australia and overseas. She is currently one of only a handful of international humanitarian law lawyers to assist the ICRC in an update of the Commentaries to the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols, in particular, provisions relating to special protections for women.
Helen is a leader in the International Red Cross Crescent Movement, which is presently raising the issue of the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. She was a key player in the drafting of an historic resolution to prohibit the use of nuclear weapons. Helen has played a key role in the creation of the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague in 2007. The ICC is the first permanent, international criminal court established to help end impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community.
Until 2022, Helen was the Director of International Law and Policy at the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva, the first woman and Australian to hold this position. Previously, she was Director of International Humanitarian Law and Strategy at the Australian Red Cross and a Senior Fellow at Melbourne Law School where she teaches in the Masters of Law program. She has a PhD in international humanitarian law; is widely published in academic journals; and a member of the editorial board of the world's preeminent journal on international humanitarian law, The International Review of the Red Cross.