Dr Cassandra Steer is a lecturer at ANU College of Law.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself including what brought you to ANU.
I am a Canberran born and bred, but I left here when I was 18 to see the bigger world. I studied Arts and Law in Sydney and Melbourne, and then spent 16 years in The Netherlands where my passion for international law was nurtured. I then moved to Canada to specialise in space law at McGill, and to be with my Canadian partner. We always wanted our daughter to get to know her Australian roots, so I started to look for opportunities in Australia, and Professor Sally Wheeler OBE, MRIA, FAcSS, FAAL offered me a truly dream job here at ANU College of Law (CoL) to specialise in space law and international law, to be part of the InSpace team, and, as it turns out, to return to my roots and my family.
2. What do you enjoy most about working at the ANU College of Law?
I’ve only been with you all for a few weeks, under very unusual circumstances, and so I’ve not even been to the new buildings on campus yet, let alone gotten to know the dynamics of this College. But I’ve been made to feel exceptionally welcome by what is clearly a team of people who love working at the college.
3. What is your favourite spot on campus?
I’ll have to tell you once I get the chance to see it!
4. How do you relax away from university?
Spend time with my partner and daughter, preferably outdoors in the wilderness
5. How would you describe Canberra in three words?
Stunning bush capital
6. What inspired you to pursue academia/your professional field?
The field of international law inspired me because I saw the possibility to restrain State behaviour and regulate international relations, however imperfectly. I was inspired to become specialised in space law because of how dependent we are on space-based technologies, and particularly the ways in which these technologies have changed the way wars are waged. I’m committed to restricting the already growing space arms race, and developing notions of “good space citizenry”.
7. What was your dream job as a child?
My mother has kept a journal in which I wrote, at the age of 7, that I wanted to be a “law-er”.
8. If you could meet one historical figure, who would it be?
Jean D’Arc. She was so passionate about what she believed that she dared speak truth to power, ignored all gender and age assumptions, and took on a powerful position of leadership that defied expectations. Honestly, I see Greta Thunberg in a similar light, and sadly the way the powers that be respond to her influence are similar – though I hope she is better protected from the fate that met Jean D’Arc in the end!
9. Who’s your favourite fictional character?
Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m a little bit obsessed with Wonder Woman. She was created during World War II by a male feminist psychologist who recognised the need for female role models. D.C. Comics hired him to create their wartime comic book hero, whose message was peace, justice and truth. I loved the 2017 Wonder Woman film, which was true to her original depiction as a warrior, and less sexualised than the 1970s tv series and recent comics. I always say any woman who is cognisant of her strength, beauty and wisdom is a Wonder Woman.
10. What’s a project or hobby you’re currently working on that motivates you?
I’m scrambling to meet an ARC grant deadline a few weeks after starting my new position, so it’s not a hobby, but I’m very much inspired by the notion of including indigenous knowledge about cosmology and law into our understandings of our place in space, and the laws governing our behaviour in our use of land and space (the environmental impact of launches, for instance, and the intergenerational impact of our activities in space).
11. What’s your favourite quote?
“The society that separates its scholars from its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting by fools.” Thucydides
12. What’s the secret to working from home successfully?
Lowering expectations, finding 4-5 hours per day in which you can be truly effective. Often that’s much more productive than 7-8 hours of hopeful time in an office anyway.
13. Who is someone you look up to?
14. What was the last book you read?
Fascism: A Warning by Madeleine Albright
15. What’s an underrated movie?
Wonder Woman (2017) and Arrival (2016)
16. What’s your favourite dish?
Donuts. Really simple cinnamon sugar ones. Seriously, it’s very hard to find a simple, basic donut outside Australia, that isn’t covered in way too much sugary, creamy, weird stuff.
17. What’s your favourite place in Canberra to visit?
The Botanic Gardens. So many different hues and colours, memories from my childhood, shady spots to walk and sit.
18. What’s your favourite song or playlist to work to?
I have to admit I love electronic dance music to work to – chemical beats and deep house. It’s not sophisticated in any way, but it gives me energy and focus and I occasionally permit myself to break out into silly dance moves to let out writers block frustrations or get my stationary body moving.
19. What’s a skill you’d like to learn?
Archery. Something that will be useful in a post-pandemic world!
20. What advice would you give to others feeling uneasy during this time?
I try to focus on the bigger picture, and the positive long-term effects of how the shutdowns will change our lives. It will become the norm to negotiate flexible working hours, some work from home, less unnecessary travel. Critical infrastructure like internet will become better and more available to those in remote areas. Ways of teaching and learning will be rapidly updated and more creative. The natural environment has had a small moment to breathe and improve. Our appreciation of what are truly essential workers and services will be adjusted. And our economic priorities will shift more towards humans and away from corporations.
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