To mark International Women's Day this year we are celebrating some of the women who make our College a world-leading institution for legal education and research.
Dr Imogen Saunders is a senior lecturer at the ANU College of Law who teaches and researches in public international law. Her publications include works on general principles of law as a source of international law, as well as the status of artificial islands in international law.
Dr Saunders is Director of Mooting and Student Competitions. She has been the Faculty Advisor for the ANU Phillip C. Jessup Moot Competition team several times, and has judged in the Australian rounds of the Jessup competition.
What inspired you to get into your field of research?
I’ve been interested in international law since high school, when I participated in mock United Nations rounds. However, the interest really intensified when I did the Jessup Moot at university. I was fascinated by this field of law that bound countries, not just people: and could be used to protect the most vulnerable in society.
My Jessup problem concerned universal jurisdiction over crimes of sexual slavery and trafficking, and I was inspired by the use of law to prevent and punish such atrocities. It was a fairly idealistic view, but I’m happy to say I still believe in the potential of international law!
What is a teaching/research project you are currently working on that motivates you?
I’m involved in a terrific project which is a collaboration between ANU, the University of Indiana and the University of Maryland. I and four other colleagues have been examining current events against the lens of a backlash against international law and institutions. From Brexit to Trump there’s a lot going on, and we’re considering whether this is really something new – a withdrawal from international law and globalism – or part of a larger cycle in how countries engage and disengage with international law and institutions.
Who is a woman in your field you look up to?
Professor Hilary Charlesworth (ANU and University of Melbourne). She is a brilliant international lawyer. She’s been a pioneer in the field of feminist approaches to international law, and has been Australia’s Judge ad hoc at the International Court of Justice. She’s also an incredible mentor to younger scholars, very generous with her time and advice, and I have benefitted greatly from her help with my research and my career.
What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
A time to reflect on what has been achieved, but also how much more there is to go. We can celebrate the achievements of amazing women, and take pride in that, but also reflect that on a number of issues – parliamentary representation, domestic violence, pay disparity and so on – there is a lot of work to do. In my field, it’s well recognised that global issues of poverty and conflict disproportionally affect and impact women and girls. We need to use international law to try and alleviate this.
What advice would you give your more junior self?
To understand that knock-backs and rejection are normal as you are building your career: but to maintain the belief in yourself and the quality of work that you do. As an academic, it can be extremely disheartening when you work on a piece to have it rejected by a journal or publisher: but it’s much more normal than it feels to you!
See more Inspiring Women of ANU Law