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A career in human rights and international law

Speakers Jacinta Carroll, Professor Gillian Triggs, Dr Susan Harris-Rimmer and Dr Allan Hawke

Professor Gillian Triggs and Dr Susan Harris-Rimmer discussed their experiences in promoting human rights and international law, and how women can get ahead
Interviewed by Dr Allan Hawke, AC

For the second WDSN event, President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Professor Gillian Triggs, and Australian Research Council Future Fellow and Research Associate at ANU, Dr Susan Harris-Rimmer, were interviewed by Dr Allan Hawke. Gillian and Susan discussed their career progression and challenges they have faced in promoting human rights and international law in Australia. They provided practical advice for how women working in the defence and security sector in Canberra can achieve their career goals.  

Both speakers encouraged audience members to be leaders in their fields, to put themselves forward for senior positions, and to take on new challenges. Gillian made the observation that leadership is important, but often women are hesitant to put themselves forward for opportunities. As women have not historically held senior leadership positions in equal numbers to men, Susan told female audience members that they were still ‘pioneer women’ and that they would be pushing the boundaries. Susan also said that everyone who cares about strategy and security issues must understand and be able to navigate financial and economic matters, as this is crucial to understanding the whole security picture. The event was extremely successful, attracting women and men from government departments, think tanks, NGOs and academia. 

Watch a video of this event here. 

About the speakers

Professor Gillian TriggsProfessor Gillian Triggs is the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission. She hopes to focus her Presidency on the implementation in Australian law of the human rights treaties to which Australia is a party, and to work with nations in the Asia Pacific region on practical approaches to human rights. Between 2007 – 2012 she was Dean of the Faculty of Law and Challis Professor of International Law at the University of Sydney. She is a former Barrister and has had a long and distinguished career in international law and legal service. As part of the Law Council of Australia she has given advice on the illegality of holding people without trial at Guantanamo, and also on the invalidity of the "Coalition of the Willing's" invasion of Iraq. In addition, Professor Triggs was brought up by parents who were heavily involved in the military: her father was a British World War II tank commander and her mother was in the Royal Navy.

Doctor Susan Harris RimmerDr Susan Harris Rimmer is an Australian Research Council Future Fellow in the Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy at the Australian National University. She is also a Research Associate at the Development Policy Centre in the Crawford School. In October 2014 she was listed in the Australian Financial Review and Westpac 100 Women of Influence  and, in 2006, she was chosen as the winner of the Audre Rapoport Prize for Scholarship on the Human Rights of Women.  In March 2014 Susan was selected as an expert for the official Australian delegation to the 58th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York and she often acts as a policy adviser to government. She has worked for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the National Council of Churches and the Parliamentary Library. In October 2013 she was appointed to the national board of the Refugee Council of Australia and as an Ambassador for the Australian Refugee Trust.

Doctor Allan HawkeDr Allan Hawke has had a distinguished career in the public service. Dr Hawke has served as Chancellor of the Australian National University (2006–2009); High Commissioner to New Zealand (2003–2005); Secretary of the Department of Defence (1999–2002); Secretary of the Department of Transport and Regional Services (1996–1999); Secretary of the Department of Veterans' Affairs (1994–1996); and Chief of Staff to Prime Minister Paul Keating. Dr Hawke continues to advise government and is active on a number of boards. 


About WDSN

The Women in Defence and Security Network (WDSN) is a joint initiative of Lockheed Martin Australia and the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI). WDSN seeks to enhance professional development opportunities and create a network for women in the defence and security sector in Canberra. 

WDSN provides a unique opportunity for women in the Defence Forces, foreign affairs, defence industry, think tanks, non-governmental organisations and academia to meet other women in their field and network. It provides a forum for highly successful women and men to share their professional experiences and openly discuss some of the challenges they may have experienced. This initiative fills the gap for women in Canberra whom may have previously been involved in a targeted program but lacked exposure to the broader group for sharing and learning.

WDSN events are typically held bimonthly and include a keynote speaker or panel discussion followed by a question and answer session and networking opportunity. We endeavour to run both closed and open sessions to allow for a safe and relaxed forum for professional growth.

Thank you to everyone who participated at this event. 


Jacinta Carroll

Jacinta Carroll was the inaugural Head of ASPI’s Counter Terrorism Policy Centre, a position she held from 2015 to 2017.