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 socio-legal scholar Professor Veronica Taylor.
What inspired you to get into your field of research and why?
I was at high school and at the time Australia and Japan were involved in a big trade dispute. It was a dispute about long-term contracts for sugar. It was on the radio, day after day, and I thought that Australia could really use more people with trade negotiation skills who also have language ability. At the time I was studying Japanese at high school and I thought that was something I would like to pursue as a career.
Who is a woman in your field that you look up to?
I really admire my colleague Professor Hilary Charlesworth. Apart from being a fantastic scholar, she really is someone who has contributed enormously to mentoring younger colleagues and promoting women around her. I think she’s a terrific exemplar of what it means to be a leader in a quiet and very generous way.
What is a teaching/research project you are currently working on that motivates you?
My all-time favourite teaching project at the moment is coaching Team Australia for the inter-collegiate negotiation and mooting competition in Tokyo. It’s very, very, very intense. All of the students say it’s the hardest course they’ve ever taken but that it’s completely transformative for them. The opportunity to go overseas and test their skills in an international arena is really important for all the students who participate. It’s also very satisfying to out-negotiate Japanese teams in Japanese.
A research project that gets me up in the morning is my work for my colleague Dr Imelda Deinla. My piece of her project is looking at legal reform in Mindanao (in the Southern Philippines) and what an autonomous region would need as strong and fair Islamic institutions. As part of it, we had the opportunity to interview all of the Shari’a judges in Mindanao, both the government appointed judges and those working for armed groups in negotiation with the government.
What are you most proud of?
My proudest personal achievement is my family. Having a full and healthy family life has been really important for me and I’m very grateful to my husband and my son for being flexible and supportive.
Professionally, the work I’m proudest of is designing and leading a project in Afghanistan from 2003 – 2010. We re-trained a significant number of law professors and law students across the country under very difficult conditions. I think about those colleagues a lot because their training with us has sometimes put them in a perilous position.
What’s your advice to your younger self about choosing the right path and juggling life’s different demands?
My advice to my younger self is be brave and bet on yourself. Don’t underestimate your capabilities -- there are plenty of other people who can do that for you. You should be quietly confident that you’ll succeed. Sometimes we put ourselves under a lot of pressure to choose the right path or choose the right career but my experience has been that the path has chosen me. I’ve been really fortunate to have a very, very fulfilling professional life. Part of that has been because of being open to opportunity and open to chance.