Inspiring Women of CAP:Associate Professor Anthea Roberts

07 March 2018

To mark International Women's Day this year we are celebrating some of the professional and academic staff who make our College a world-leading institution for research and teaching on Asia and the Pacific.


In this piece, we chat to RegNet law specialist Associate Professor Anthea Roberts.

What inspired you to get into your field of research and why?

I am someone who has always loved to travel and to be exposed to different cultures. That love of travel took me to study overseas at Oxford and NYU, which then led to me working in a big international law firm in New York and London. I then taught international law at the LSE, Harvard and Columbia before returning home. As a lawyer, you can't easily move between states unless you study, teach and work in an area like international law. So my choice was a pretty obvious one in retrospect. I like that my area of the law deals with issues of real global importance, like international trade and investment and changing geopolitical power dynamics, and I enjoy that it is a field in which you have to deal with international politics rather than being confined to legal analysis only. 

Who is a woman in your field that you look up to?

That is easy! Hilary Charlesworth. Hilary was a professor of international law school at the ANU when I was a student here and she supervised my undergraduate thesis. Her supervision was really what started me on my road to academia as that was my first publication in the field. Hilary was also the head of the panel at RegNet when I interviewed to come back and I chose to come back partly on the basis of how much she had enjoyed her time at RegNet. Hilary is an amazing scholar and a wonderful person - I respect her in so many ways, including in how she has managed to craft an excellent international career from Canberra and how she and her husband balanced interesting careers with raising two fantastic kids. Hilary has been a mentor to me for many years and I have always found her advice to be deeply sage and utterly human. She is challenging intellectually but understands that we are all whole people and you need to make decisions that respect that reality. 

What is a teaching/research project you are currently working on that motivates you?

I am currently working on a project that I am tentatively calling "Thinking International: Breaking Barriers." I say tentatively because I haven't quite worked out yet whether it is one project or two. The first looks at whether, when and how different international fields internationalise and it includes comparisons across international law, international relations, sociology, psychology and economics. The second part looks at how to "think international" in a 3-dimensional sense, by which I mean as an academic who seeks to cross national, disciplinary and academic/practitioner barriers. This work is deeply inspired by my time at RegNet as it is a truly interdisciplinary research group that also fosters close collaborations between academia and policy makers.

What are you most proud of?

I am very grateful that I have been able to balance having two kids with having a job that I love. When I was pregnant with my second child, I began working on a new book. One might not think that this was the best time to embark upon such a project but it has been really satisfying to watch the book develop and grow alongside my youngest child, even though juggling the two was challenging at certain points. I finished the book as my youngest turned two and it has been very well received, including winning a big international award by the American Society of International Law. It means a lot to me that I was able to take a good maternity leave and yet come back and complete this project.

What’s your advice to your younger self about choosing the right path and juggling life’s different demands?

I think it is important to do what you love, so pick a career and a subject that you feel really passionate about. I believe that equality in the home is very important, so if you want to balance a meaningful career with real childcare responsibilities, it makes all the difference in the world to have a supportive partner who is trying to strike the same sort of balance. It is very important to focus on the things you love outside of work too, whether that is your children, your pets, walking, jogging, fishing or whatever makes you feel either alive or at peace or both. I would advise my younger self (and my current self!) to travel less. That is the thing that I have found the most difficult in being an international lawyer from Australia, particularly with young children. But I am also conscious that living in Canberra really helps with achieving work-life balance compared to the cities where I have spent most of my last 15 years (London and New York).






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