Humans of ANU Law: Dr Rebecca Monson
Rebecca Monson

Rebecca Monson is an Associate Professor at ANU College of Law.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself including what brought you to ANU.

I first came to the ANU as a Summer Research Scholar in the mid-2000s. I spent a few months working in the Fenner School with Professor Stephen Dovers, and had a great time learning from the amazing scholars there. A few years later I returned to be a Summer Research Scholar with Professor Daniel Fitzpatrick in the law school. Daniel and I started talking about PhDs, and here I am many years later.

2. What do you enjoy most about working at the ANU College of Law?

I get to have daily conversations with students and academics who are committed to linking their academic pursuits with “real world” impacts. The ANU is a world-class institution for the study of law, as well as other areas I work across - development studies, geography, anthropology, and Pacific Studies.

3. What is your favourite spot on campus?

Last year I had the privilege of doing an Indigenous heritage walk around campus with Uncle Wally Bell, who pointed out several important trees. I encounter them on my daily walks, and they’ve become important reminders of my place in history.

4. How do you relax away from university?

Gardening, bushwalking, bike riding with my family

5. How would you describe Canberra in three words?

Bush, Books and Bureaucracy

6. What inspired you to pursue academia/your professional field?

I’m interested in relationships between humans and their “natural” environment, the regulation of those relationships, and our ideas of “development”. I was attracted to academia because it looked like a path that would enable me to pursue these interests in multiple ways – via research and writing; engagement with a range of communities; teaching students at various stages of their careers; and contributing to public policy.

7. What was your dream job as a child?

Environmental activist, forensic scientist, constitutional lawyer, palynologist…I’ve always been hopelessly nerdy and earnest.

8. If you could meet one historical figure, who would it be?

There are many! One historical figure from my work is Ishmael Ngatu, who became very influential as a chief, Methodist missionary, and District Headman in Marovo Lagoon, Solomon Islands, during the 1900s. I’d like to talk to the women who observed the rapid changes occurring during that time – their voices are often very ‘quiet’ in the written historical record. I would also learn a lot from speaking to my own ancestors, particularly on my father’s side, as I know too little about our history on this continent.

9. Who’s your favourite fictional character?

Ellie Linton from Tomorrow when the war began (1993), Jo March from Little Woman (1868) and Meg Murry from a Wrinkle in time (1962).

10. What’s a project or hobby you’re currently working on that motivates you?

I’m experimenting a lot in our garden, particularly with our enormous greenhouse

11. What’s your favourite quote?

I love words, so I have many favourite quotes. I try to “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly”. As someone interested in the law, I am constantly challenged by Audre Lorde’s assertion that “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house”.

12. What’s the secret to working from home successfully?

I’ll tell you when I figure it out! It’s definitely made easier by a partner who takes my work obligations as seriously as his own, and who carries his share of the domestic load, including childcare. I’m getting most of my work done in the afternoon and evening, and the kids often camp out on the floor next to me. A steady supply of coffee and chocolate is essential.

13. Who is someone you look up to?

Too hard to list just one. In academia, they include Professor John Handmer, Professor Asmi Wood, and Professor Bina D’Costa.

14. What was the last book you read?

Melissa Lucaschenko’s Too Much Lip; it’s an exceptional book.

15. What’s an underrated movie?

I’m not sure it qualifies as “underrated”, but I’ve always had a soft spot for Brassed Off (1996). I grew up near the Latrobe Valley, in the brass band scene, during a pretty difficult period of structural adjustment. The film came out at a time when my childhood friends and I could readily relate to it.

16. What’s your favourite dish?

I can’t name just one! Fish and chips on a Gippsland beach before a storm hits. My partner’s fresh pasta and chilli-lit sauce. The freshest of Kokoda. A Thai curry in a crowded market. Red wine and cheese in front of a fire.

17. What’s your favourite place in Canberra to visit?


18. What’s your favourite song or playlist to work to?

I can’t work to music, I end up listening to it

19. What’s a skill you’d like to learn?

Knitting, I’m hopeless

20. What advice would you give to others feeling uneasy during this time?

Keep it simple and focus on the basics. Be kind to yourself, and to others.