Dr Heather Roberts (BA (AsianStudies) (Hons) '00, LLB (Hons) '00, GDLP '00, PhD '08) has received a Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) from the Australian Research Council to undertake extensive research into the records of Australian judicial swearing-in ceremonies dating back to Federation.
Judicial swearing-in ceremonies are a significant, yet under-utilised, resource that Dr Roberts has used in her research since writing her honours thesis as an undergraduate law student at ANU.
“My honours thesis was on the decisions of Justice William Deane of the High Court, and his swearing-in speech was pure gold for my project because in it there was one paragraph that pulled together all of the themes that I’d found when reading his judgments.
“It was a real predictor, back at the beginning of his judicial career, of some of the best cases that he decided over the next 13 years.”
The Ideal Judge – the title of Dr Roberts’s DECRA Project – will be the first of its kind anywhere in the world, and certainly a first for Australia, and will examine these ceremonial archives to explore the rich history and biography of Australian judges, and consider how the perception of judges and judging have changed over time.
Her three year grant will analyse how swearing-in ceremonies expose the ways governments, lawyers and judges perceive the essential attributes of judges and judging, the gendered ramifications of those perceptions, and variations over time and geography.
“This analysis will inform public debate regarding the attributes necessary to maintain and build confidence in the judiciary.”
Dr Roberts is the first academic from the ANU College of Law to receive a DECRA.