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Alumni Q&A: Jack Musgrave

02 June 2022

Jack is a human rights lawyer, working as a Researcher for Progressive Voice – a participatory rights-based policy, research, and advocacy organisation connected with grassroots civil society and community-based organisations in Burma/Myanmar.


Progressive Voice works to amplify voices from the ground to the United Nations and international community. His goal is to create a link between the rights-based movement on the ground and the policy makers at the highest level, through in-depth policy research and analysis.

Below he talks about his time at UC and the journey to where he is now.

Thinking back what drew you to study BA Hons (History) and Law?

At high school I was really interested in history, societal structures and law. I found the first year of law really challenging, so put it to one side and returned to it once I had completed my BA History (Hons) and Philosophy. My BA provided a solid grounding, especially in crafting a writing style and critical thinking, which also gave me that foundation to continue with my LLB. During my LLB I really enjoyed media law, judicial review and Treaty of Waitangi/ indigenous peoples rights. This fuelled my interest in indigenous peoples’ rights within the international human rights law framework - which was the focus of my thesis while perusing an LLM at Lund University, Sweden. 
The support from the faculty of UC’s School of Law, particularly Professor Ursula Cheer, was instrumental in my successful application to the competitive LLM programme at Lund University. I am very thankful for the robust education and opportunities UC provided.

Has your career evolved the way you expected?

Absolutely not. I studied and followed what I enjoyed, not knowing of the career path. I had confidence UC’s degrees would shape what I would eventually end up doing. 

What motivates you?

The resilience of the people I work with and the inspirational revolutionary movement in Burma/Myanmar, bringing together ethnic groups, religions, women, LGBTQI, youth and labour organisations against the tyranny of the Myanmar military. 

What are you currently working on?

One project I am working on at the moment is researching human rights violations in central Burma/Myanmar since the attempted coup d’état on 1 February, 2021. We are partnering with local people and community-based organisations on the ground to develop pragmatic humanitarian solutions to assist internal displacement persons, as there are ongoing airstrikes, massacres, arbitrary arrests, burning of villages, and blocking of aid - perpetrated by the Myanmar military junta (in violation of international law).

What advice would you give to new graduates wanting to make a difference to human rights?

Experience human rights in practice. Make a difference by utilising your skills to amplify the voices of human rights defenders on the ground in difficult situations or highlighting exploitative extraction industry, protect journalists, call out sexual and gender-based violence or promoting the self-determination of indigenous peoples. Wherever your passion area is, there are so many local and community based human rights organisations that take new graduates as interns, volunteers, researchers, and advocacy and communication officers. Here you will be able to hone your skills, meet incredible people, work in collaborative environments, experience different cultures and assist civil society to achieve their goals.
Also, consider a Masters in International Human Rights law overseas, or UC’s International Law and Political Science (ILAP) Master’s program or LLM program to improve your knowledge in international law, human rights and global politics. The PhD track is also fruitful, especially as much of human rights law is not settled, with many avenues for academic inquiry within a variety of disciplines (sociology, law, political science etc).

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