ANU Spaces – Professor Sally Wheeler OBE

Sally Wheeler

I will miss being able to watch Premier-league soccer at a civilised time of day. And I will particularly miss going to Villa Park which is the home ground of Aston Villa.

Meet Professor Sally Wheeler OBE, the new Dean of the ANU College of Law. Professor Wheeler has come to ANU from the Queen's University Belfast where she recently served a five-year term as Head of the School of Law.

Professor Wheeler, welcome to ANU. Tell us what you're excited about as Dean?

I'm hugely excited about coming to the ANU because the ANU is the best university in Australia. It's a globally important institution full of really top quality people. Its interface with the world and the excitement of being here is massive.

You've held a number of roles, having worked in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, but also in research, law and governance. Tell us what you've enjoyed about working in these areas?

I like building things between disciplines. I had a role working in law and governance. I was lucky enough to be able to work with a lot of very senior policy makers and civil servants. That was very exciting and I learnt an awful lot about policy design and delivery. I had a role for a while working in Arts, English and languages and I learnt a lot about how disciplines that appear to be quite similar are actually very different - so film and drama - and how you can create synergies between them. I'm open to everything really, I've been very lucky.

You've come from the Queens University in Belfast - can you tell us about that?

It's a university in a capital city which considers itself to have a central role in its community but also because of the peculiar history of Northern Ireland to have a disproportionate impact on United Kingdom affairs and other conflict-based societies in transition. In moving from there to somewhere like the ANU which sees itself as having both an all-Australia profile but also a huge regional and international influence, is kind of like upscaling from Queens. I couldn't believe I got the job or indeed that I could be this lucky, just because ANU is a globally famous institution.

I will miss being able to watch Premier-league soccer at a civilised time of day. And I will particularly miss going to Villa Park which is the home ground of Aston Villa.

The tradition of the ANU Spaces profile is that we ask the person interviewed what their favourite space is, on campus. What is your favourite space to go to, perhaps during a quiet moment and why?

I haven't really been here long enough but I have been to the garden in University House and I'd also done that before I was employed here on a couple of occasions and I think quintessentially that sort of mingling space is one of the things that ANU is about.

If you were stranded on a deserted island, who would you want with you and why?

That is very, very difficult. Can we come back to that? (Laughs)

What are you looking forward to most about delving into the world of Australian law and the disciplines within the ANU College of Law?

One of the things that has always fascinated me about Australian law schools is their proximity to other disciplines - there are not the traditional boundaries in Australia - but also their interface with public servants, judges and real lawyers. So it seems that across Australian law schools you get much more synergy around what you're actually trying to do. Academic law is much less siloed than it is in other places, even where it's at its purest academic form. Some of the things in recent things that have come out of the Australian High Court and the way that court deals with some of the concepts around obscure areas of contract law are genuinely fascinating.

I still don't know who I want to be with on a desert island!

Where do you see the ANU College of Law headed in the next five to 10 years?

The College is currently in the QS rankings at around number 17. I'd like to think it would move up on that. It is in the top 20 law schools in the world and I think it's really important we acknowledge and recognise that, but I would like to think of it as being in the top 10.

That's the end of our questions - we can skip the desert island one if you like!

I just find it really difficult to think who I would want to be with on a deserted island and frankly, I wouldn't ever want to be on a deserted island because I'm not very good with insects or indeed practical skills, so if I was on such an island I'd be quietly weeping in the corner somewhere.


Updated:  10 August 2015/Responsible Officer:  College General Manager, ANU College of Law/Page Contact:  Law Marketing Team