Alumni Profile - Suzanne Akila
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Current position: Assistant Director, International Legal Branch, Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Year of graduation: 2016
Completing a PhD at RegNet was a stimulating, challenging and fulfilling experience. As an interdisciplinary school, RegNet offered an opportunity to engage with a range of disciplines and methods. Going beyond my field of law enriched my research and enabled me to test ideas in a much more holistic and robust way with people of different scholarly backgrounds.
The RegNet environment was one of equality, where students were a genuine part of the research community. Another strength of the RegNet PhD was the training in methods and methodology which allowed students within the school to engage substantively in research ideas, build their research toolkit and make friends and connections.
I joined the PhD programme as a government practitioner as one of the inaugural scholars in the Sir Roland Wilson Foundation. This scholarship selects high-performing public servants to complete PhD research in areas of enduring national interest. Completing a PhD at RegNet gave me the opportunity to build expertise in a neglected area of international law and foreign policy, as well as develop wonderful personal and professional relationships across the ANU. My PhD looked at participation and the protection of citizens abroad in international law. After submitting my thesis in 2015, I returned to the Public Service in my current role as Assistant Director in the International Legal Branch at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).
This role involves providing advice to government on the development, practice and application of international law. It sits at the intersection of law, international relations policy and politics. I advise on a range of issues, including military operations, consular law and policy, international humanitarian law, treaty law and practice, cyber issues, and international security. DFAT recently launched the Diplomatic Academy, which I have also been involved in. I have been responsible for developing courses, as well as running roundtables, seminars and co-hosting guest speakers with the ANU.