To mark International Women's Day this year we are celebrating some of the women who make our College a world-leading institution for legal education and research.
Associate Professor Heather Roberts is a pioneer scholar on judicial swearing-in ceremonies. She teaches constitutional law, property law and equity and trusts. Her research examines Australian constitutional law and history, with a biographical focus. In 2017, she was awarded an early career fellowship by the Australian Research Council, titled “The Ideal Judge”.
What inspired you to get into your field of research?
My research, and teaching, focuses on how individuals make a difference in the development of the law. I was inspired by many teachers at ANU Law to think about how history and biography influences judicial reasoning, particularly by my teachers in constitutional law Professors Michael Coper and Fiona Wheeler.
What is a teaching/research project you are currently working on that motivates you?
I am working on a multi-year research project funded by the Australian Research Council, called "The Ideal Judge". It examines how expectations of the attributes and skills of a "good judge" have changed over time, or may be influenced by gender-based assumptions of judging, or even by Australia’s geography. It is my dream project, and I’m so fortunate to have the funding to be able to pursue it.
Who is a woman in your field you look up to?
My research involves speaking to many judges, and reading about their careers and life journeys. At ANU Law, I am also the Director of the Visiting Judges Program so I continue to meet inspiring women judges: there are so many I admire I would not want to single any one out. But in the academic world, my mentor and inspiration has always been ANU Law Professor Phillipa Weeks, who sadly passed away very young.
Phillipa embodied everything I believe a modern academic should be – she was a gifted and generous teacher and mentor who made everyone feel valued, an inspired researcher with profound insight and the ability to communicate precisely, simply and elegantly, and she was committed to using her skills for the benefit of others, both within the university and in the community. We were all better people for knowing and working with her, and we continue to feel her absence keenly.
What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
It is an opportunity to reflect upon the women who have guided our journeys, and have striven to make things better for future generations. To celebrate the positive steps that have been achieved, and to plan how to take the next step.
What advice would you give your more junior self?
See more Inspiring Women of ANU Law