Dr Heather Roberts

Senior Lecturer
Phd (ANU); BA(Asian Studies)(Hons) / LLB(Hons) (ANU)
+61 2 6125 0624
Room 229

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Biography

Dr Heather Roberts is the leading and pioneer scholar on judicial swearing- in ceremonies. In 2015 this research was showcased in her interview with Anita Barraud on ABC Radio National’s Law Report. This interview drew on her extensive and ground-breaking archival research into the origins and contemporary practice of these ceremonies in Australian Federal Courts.

Her swearing-in research is part of a larger research agenda exploring the question: how does who a judge is make a difference to how the law develops? This question originally prompted her return to academia to pursue doctoral research examining the constitutional philosophy of Sir William Deane. She has continued this interest through studies of the jurisprudence of Justices Michael Kirby and Dyson Heydon, and presented and published her research nationally and internationally.

Appointments

  • Heather has served as the Secretary of the Australian Association of Constitutional Law, and ACT Chapter chair. 

Awards

Year Title
2014 ANU College of Law Education Awards: Award for Teaching Excellence 2014

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Significant research publications

  • Roberts, H 2014 Telling a History of Australian Women Judges Through Courts' Ceremonial Archives' Australian Feminist Law Journal, 40:1, 147-162.
  • '"Swearing Mary": The Significance of the Speeches Made at Mary Gaudron's Swearing-in as a Justice of the High Court of Australia' Sydney Law Review, vol. 34, no. 3, pp. 493-510. 
  • Roberts, H 2012 'Women Judges, "Maiden Speeches" and the High Court of Australia', in Beverley Baines, Daphne Barak-Erez, Tsvi Kahana (ed.), Feminist Constitutionalism: Global Perspectives, Cambridge University Press, New York, USA, pp. 113-131.
  • Roberts, H 2011, 'A Mirror to the Man Reflecting on Justice William Deane: A Private Man in Public Office', Adelaide Law Review, vol. 32, pp. 17-46.
  • Roberts, H & Williams, J 2009, 'Constitutional Law', in Ian Freckelton and Hugh Selby (ed.), Appealing to the Future: Michael Kirby and His Legacy, Thomson Reuters, Pyrmont, Australia, pp. 179-216

Recent news

09
Feb
2017
The High Court of Australia

“How does the personal identity of a judge make a difference to law and legal systems?” That was the lingering question that sparked Dr Heather Roberts’ return to academia and one she seeks to answer in an upcoming research project.

27
Jan
2017
High Court of Australia

The Honourable Justice Susan Kiefel will become the first woman to be Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia on Monday when she is sworn in during a ceremony dating back more than 100 years.

30
Nov
2016
Professor Michael Coper

On Friday 2 December a conference celebrating the achievements of Michael Coper will be held in the Common Room, University House. Michael is a “big picture” person whose vision has always focused on the future. The conference’s title, “New Ways Forward”, with its tone of energy and optimism, could not be more fitting for an event celebrating the career of Michael Coper and reinforcing the continuing beneficial effects of his achievements.

27
Aug
2015

ANU constitutional law expert Heather Roberts with Gabrielle Appleby (UNSW) asks how a former judge with an avowed commitment to judicial independence and probity found himself at the centre of a very public controversy over his own impartiality?

In the Media

1
Feb
2017
Heather Roberts speaks to ABC Radio National Law Report
30
Jan
2017
Heather Roberts quoted in Nine News website; AAP
30
Jan
2017
Mornings with Genevieve Jacobs
Heather Roberts interviewed by ABC Radio Canberra

Past events

02
Dec
2016
Professor Michael Coper
12.00AM Conference

A conference in honour of Professor Michael Coper.

PHP:

Please note, only a small selection of recent publications and activities are listed below.

Research biography

Dr Heather Roberts is the leading and pioneer scholar on judicial swearing-in ceremonies. In 2015 this research was showcased in her interview with Anita Barraud on ABC Radio National’s Law Report. This interview drew on her extensive and ground-breaking archival research into the origins and contemporary practice of these ceremonies in Australian Federal Courts. In particular, the interview focused on how her research uses swearing-in ceremonies to tell a rich narrative history and biography of the Australian legal profession and the judiciary, including the changing attitudes towards women in the law in Australia.

Her swearing-in research is part of a larger research agenda exploring the question: how does who a judge is make a difference to how the law develops? This question originally prompted her return to academia to pursue doctoral research examining the constitutional philosophy of Sir William Deane. She has continued this interest through studies of the jurisprudence of Justices Michael Kirby and Dyson Heydon, and presented and published her research nationally and internationally.

Dr Roberts was elected as Council Member and Secretary of the Australian Association of Constitutional Law and has served as Treasurer of the ACT Tenant’s Union.

Books & edited collections

  • Michael Coper, Heather Roberts, James Stellios (eds) The Tasmanian Dam Case 30 Years On: An Enduring Legacy Sydney: The Federation Press, 2017 (in press) (ISBN: 97817600208280).

Book chapters

  • Michael Coper, Heather Roberts, and James Stellios ‘Introduction’ in Michael Coper, Heather Roberts, James Stellios (eds) The Tasmanian Dam Case 30 Years On: An Enduring Legacy Sydney: The Federation Press, 2017 (in press) (ISBN: 97817600208280).
  • Gabrielle Appleby and Heather Roberts (2016a) ‘Chapter 2: Law and Literature, Analysing Style in Judgment Writing’ in Gabrielle Appleby and Rosalind Dixon (eds) Constitutional Critical Thinking: Rereading Monis Sydney: The Federation Press, 2016, pp. 28-42.
  • Gabrielle Appleby and Heather Roberts (2016b) ‘“He who would not be muzzled” Justice Heydon’s Last Dissent’ in Andrew Lynch (ed) Great Australian Dissents Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2016, pp. 335-354.
  • Heather Roberts (2012a) ‘Women Judges, “Maiden Speeches,” and the High Court of Australia’, in Beverley Baines, Daphne Barak-Erez, Tsvi Kahana (eds), Feminist Constitutionalism: Global Perspectives Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2012, pp. 113-131.
  • Heather Roberts and John Williams (2011a) ‘Constitutional Law’ in Ian Freckelton and Hugh Selby (eds), Appealing to the Future: Michael Kirby and His Legacy Sydney: Thomson Reuters, 2011, pp. 179-216.

Refereed journal articles

  • Margaret Thornton & Heather Roberts (2017a) ‘Women Judges, Private Lives: (In)visibilities in Fact and Fiction’ University of New South Wales Law Journal vol 40, no 2, 2017 (accepted 4 March 2017).
  • Andrew Macintosh, Heather Roberts & Amy Constable (2017b) ‘An Empirical Evaluation of Environmental Citizen Suits under the Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999’ Sydney Law Review (accepted 1 November 2016).
  • Heather Roberts ‘Telling a History of Australian Women Judges Through Courts’ Ceremonial Archives’ Australian Feminist Law Journal vol 40, no1, 2014, pp. 147-162.
  • Heather Roberts (2012b) ‘“Swearing Mary”: The Significance of the Speeches Made at Mary Gaudron’s Swearing-in as a Justice of the High Court of Australia’ Sydney Law Review vol 34, no 3, September 2012, pp. 493-510.
  • Heather Roberts (2011b) ‘“A Mirror to the Man”, Reflecting on Justice William Deane: A Private Man in Public Office’ Adelaide Law Review vol 32, no 1, 2011, pp. 17-46.

Conference papers & presentations

Invited Presentations/Keynotes

  • Heather Roberts ‘Law Through the Lens of Biography’, New Ways Forward: Reform and Renewal in Constitutional Interpretation and Legal Education (Conference in Honour of Professor Michael Coper), Canberra, 2 December 2016.

Conference submissions

  • Margaret Thornton and Heather Roberts ‘Women Judges, Private Lives: (In)visibilities in Fact and Fiction’ Spectacular Law, Australasian Law, Literature and Humanities Association Conference, University of Hong Kong, 10 December 2016.
  • Rachel Cahill-O’Callaghan and Heather Roberts ‘Values and Agreement in the High Court of Australia’, Society of Legal Scholars Conference, University of Oxford, Oxford, 9 September 2016.
  • Margaret Thornton and Heather Roberts ‘Women Judges, Private Lives: (In)visibilities in Fact and Fiction’, Law and Culture Conference, St Mary’s University, London, 5 September 2016.
  • Heather Roberts ‘From Oddities to Ordinary? The Legal Profession's Changing Attitudes to Women Lawyers in Australia’, The Futures We Want: Global Sociology and the Struggles for a Better World, 3rd International Sociology Forum, University of Vienna, Vienna, 14 July 2016.
  • Gabrielle Appleby and Heather Roberts ‘Critical Thinking Through Theory and Rereading’, Public Law in the Classroom, University of New South Wales, Sydney, 11 February 2016.
  • Gabrielle Appleby and Heather Roberts ‘“He who would not be muzzled” Justice Heydon’s Last Dissent’ Great Australian Dissents Workshop, University of New South Wales, Sydney, 10 June 2015.
  • Heather Roberts ‘Women Judges ‘Maiden Speeches’: Telling a History of Women Judges Through Judicial Swearing-in Ceremonies’, Society of Legal Scholars Conference, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, 11 September 2014.
  • Heather Roberts ‘What makes a Good Judge? A Comparison of Australian and Japanese Judges’ Biographical commentaries', Australian Network for Japanese Law Workshop, Cairns, 15 May 2014.
  • Heather Roberts ‘Why we Should use Swearing-in our Teaching’, Australian Law Teachers Association Conference, Australian National University, Canberra, 30 September 2013.
  • Heather Roberts ‘“Telling Tales’”: How Judges’ Lives are told at High Court Swearing-in Ceremonies’, The 8th Biennial Conference of the International Auto/Biography Association, Australian National University, Canberra, 18 July 2012.
  • Heather Roberts ‘“Portentous Words”: The Significance of High Court Swearing-in Ceremonies”, 2011 Joint Conference of the Law, Literature and Humanities Association of Australasia and Law and Society Association of Australia and New Zealand, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, December 2011.
  • Heather Roberts ‘Women Judges, “Maiden Speeches”, and the High Court of Australia’, International Conference on Feminist Constitutionalism, Queens University, Queens, 1 March 2009.
  • Heather Roberts “Deane – A Sideways Glance”, Legal Biography Symposium, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, 4 December 2009.
  • Heather Roberts ‘“A Mirror to the People’: Swearing-in ceremonies as commentary on the History of the High Court of Australia and its changing role in the Australian Legal System’, Australia and New Zealand Law and History Society Conference, Wellington, 10 December 2009.
  • Heather Roberts ‘Judicial Leadership and Swearing-in Speeches of Justices of the High Court of Australia’, Public Law Weekend, Australian National University, Canberra, 1 November 2008

Committees

Internal ANU Committees

  • ANU College of Law Visitors Committee (2015- ongoing)
  • ANU College of Law Research Committee (2013- ongoing)
  • ANU College of Law CHAT student mentoring program, Director (2009-2010)
  • ANU College of Law Pastoral Care Committee, Chair (2009-2010)
  • ANU Legal History Network, Chair (2009-2010)
  • Federal Law Review Staff Editor (2009)
  • ANU College of Law Admissions Committee (2008-2009)
  • ANU College of Law Honours Thesis Review Committee (2008-2009)
  • Phillipa Weeks Scholarship Committee (2006-2009, 2015)

Case notes & book reviews

  • Heather Roberts (2017a) ‘Chief Justice Susan Kiefel: Swearing-in Ceremonies and the Importance of Firsts’ LSJ (Law Society of New South Wales Journal) Issue 31, March 2017, pp. 78-79.
  • Heather Roberts and Laura Sweeney ‘Why (Re)Write Judgments: Australian Feminist Judgments’ Sydney Law Review vol 37, no 3, September 2015, pp. 257-266.
  • Heather Roberts ‘Australian Feminist Judgments: Righting and Rewriting the Law, edited by Heather Douglas, Francesca Bartlett, Trish Luker and Rosemary Hunter. Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2015, 382pp (£35 paperback). ISBN: 9781849465212. (pages 558–565)’ Legal Studies vol 35, no 3, September 2015, pp. 558-565.

Other

  • Heather Roberts ‘Caselaw and the High Court’ Legaldate vol 22, no 1, March 2010, pp. 7.
  • Heather Roberts ‘Fundamental Constitutional Truths: The Constitutional Jurisprudence of Justice Deane, 1982-1995’ (thesis submitted in completion of PhD), July 2008.

PhD supervision

I am willing to supervise in the areas:

  • Constitutional law
  • Judicial biography
  • Australian legal history
  • Torrens title
  • Law and gender in relation to any of the above topics

 

SJD supervision

I am willing to supervise in the areas:

  • Constitutional law
  • Judicial biography
  • Australian legal history
  • Torrens title
  • Law and gender in relation to any of the above topics

 

 

MPhil supervision

 

I am willing to supervise in the areas:

  • Constitutional law
  • Judicial biography
  • Australian legal history
  • Torrens title
  • Law and gender in relation to any of the above topics

LLM Masters thesis supervision

I am willing to supervise in the areas:

  • Constitutional law
  • Judicial biography
  • Australian legal history
  • Torrens title
  • Law and gender in relation to any of the above topics

 

Honours thesis supervision

I am willing to supervise, and have previously supervised in the areas:

  • Constitutional law
  • Judicial biography
  • Australian legal history
  • Property Law
  • Women and the Law

 

 

Internship supervision

I am willing to supervise in the areas:

  • Constitutional law
  • Judicial biography
  • Australian legal history
  • Property
  • Women and the Law

I have previously supervised:

  • 'the Tasmanian Dam Case: a 30 year retrospective'

 

Philosophy & approach

Heather’s teaching is informed by her experiences in compulsory courses: courses with deserved reputations for being demanding and complex, and undeserved reputations for being dull and irrelevant to students’ lives post-university. Heather’s inspiring teaching is challenging these assumptions. Blending a carefully constructed skills-based approach to course content, a rigorous but encouraging learning environment, and a genuine and infectious enthusiasm for her research and her teaching, students leave Heather’s classes with renewed confidence in their abilities and new perspectives on law and judicial reasoning.

Teaching awards

Year Title
2014 ANU College of Law Education Awards: Award for Teaching Excellence 2014

read more »

Past courses

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How my works connects with public policy

My current research connects with public policy by interrogating the question: how does the personal identity of a judge make a difference to law and legal systems?

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