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‘Pracademic’ makes waves in the law of the sea

08 April 2021
Dr Camille Goodman’s PhD focused on the nature and extent of coastal state jurisdiction over living resources in exclusive economic zones.

Dr Camille Goodman (GDLP '07, PhD '19) is a self-described ‘pracademic’ whose career and professional life have traversed the boundaries of academia and public policy.

A government lawyer for many years, Dr Goodman has always kept one foot in the academic community as an alumna and visitor at The Australian National University (ANU) College of Law and through her involvement with the Australian and New Zealand Society for International Law.

Dr Goodman completed her Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice at the ANU College of Law in 2007, before returning to study a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Law some years later. She completed her PhD with the support of the Sir Roland Wilson Foundation, which provides scholarships that invest in research and development opportunities for public servants, with a view to build public policy capability and leadership.

Dr Goodman’s doctoral research examined the jurisdiction of 150 coastal states over living resources in the 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone adjacent to the coast. Inspired by innovative and collaborative approaches to fisheries in the Pacific, her research clarified how states can maximise the effectiveness of this jurisdiction in line with contemporary international law. Dr Goodman’s PhD will be published as a book with Oxford University Press later this year.

In March 2021, after 16 years with the Attorney-General’s Department – primarily in the Office of International Law – Dr Goodman commenced in a new role as an academic at the Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources & Security (ANCORS) at the University of Wollongong. In her new role, Dr Goodman will draw on both her government and academic expertise to contribute to the Centre’s research, teaching, policy development advice and capacity-building work in Australia and the Indo-Pacific region.

In this Q&A, Dr Goodman reflects on her experiences as a government lawyer, her PhD journey and new academic appointment.

No one’s PhD journey is the same as yours, no one’s topic is the same as yours, and no one’s situation is the same as yours.

What has your work at the Office of International Law in the Attorney-General’s Department involved?

The Office of International Law (OIL) is the primary international law advisor to the Australian Government. It advises government on all aspects of international law, including the negotiation of treaties, the conduct of international litigation, the interpretation of Australia’s rights and obligations under international law, and how we implement those rights and obligations domestically. OIL provides advice on international law across all government agencies, and to ministers and cabinet.

I worked across the office on different matters, but largely on the law of the sea and maritime issues. I was also seconded for two years to the Department of Agriculture, working on international fisheries. This was a transformative experience, as a lawyer working in a policy setting.

For the past two years, I’ve been working in a range of central corporate and governance roles. I worked on the incoming government brief for the 2019 election, and oversaw the team that looks after the department’s engagement in the Cabinet process, the legislation program, senate estimates, parliamentary matters, and strategic policy. This gave me great insights into how government works at the day-to-day level – including critical issues like freedom of information, the importance of good governance processes and a realistic view of ‘how the sausage is made’.

What has been some of the key highlights of your time at the Office of International Law?

I worked on the International Court of Justice and Permanent Court of Arbitration cases between Australia and East Timor, which was a really challenging experience.

I served as the independent assistant to the Chair in the drafting of a multilateral treaty between the 17 member states of the Pacific Islands Forum Fishery Agency (FFA), which provides for cooperative fisheries surveillance and enforcement activities in the vast maritime zones of the FFA members in the western and central Pacific Ocean.

I was also involved in the establishment of the Attorney-General’s Department International Law Colloquium, which is something the Office of International Law hosts each year to bring together government, the academy, NGOs and other practitioners to exchange expertise and build a community of international lawyers in Australia.

You describe yourself as a ‘pracademic’. Can you explain what this means?

I’ve always been on the fulcrum of practice and academia. When I joined the public service, I made a deal with myself that I’d write or present a paper every year, so I would still maintain an academic life – and I stuck to that promise. While being in the public service, I remained very involved in the Australian and New Zealand Society for International Law as a way to connect with the academic community.

Being a ‘pracademic’ is a translation and bridge-building exercise. We are all busy, and it’s easy to become siloed within our expertise, but it’s important to remember the big picture: the point of both public policy and academic research is to improve the wellbeing of people, our society and environment. Using evidence to make good policy is ultimately a goal we share between the Australian Public Service (APS) and academia. To achieve this, it’s important to have a door that swings both ways. This can’t just be transactional – it has to be relational, too. The Australian National University in Canberra is a great place to do that.

Can you tell us a bit about your new appointment at the Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources & Security (ANCORS) at the University of Wollongong?

ANCORS was set up by the University of Wollongong in conjunction with the Navy in the 90s. It is a postgraduate interdisciplinary research centre, and to me, it embodies the ‘pracademic’ idea of harnessing academic expertise to provide evidence-based policy advice to government.

My new position is a combination of all the things that I like – conducting research and sharing that research with others. I am also really hoping to keep in touch with my APS colleagues so I can ensure that my work continues to be informed by practice, and that the areas that I’m doing research in are those areas in which the APS is looking for evidence and expertise to make good policy and decisions.

Your PhD focused on the nature and extent of coastal state jurisdiction over living resources in exclusive economic zones. Can you tell us a little bit about that and what motivated you to choose this subject for your dissertation?

Every state is entitled to an exclusive economic zone extending up to 200 nautical miles from its coastline, within which it has sovereign rights over living and non-living resources. While you don’t ‘own’ these waters and the vessels of other states are free to pass through them, you have sovereign rights over the resources within them. So with respect to those resources, you have the right to make laws and apply them to people and vessels. I’m interested in how coastal states use this jurisdiction innovatively and effectively to derive maximum benefit from their resources and regulate activities in their exclusive economic zone.

This research was motivated by my involvement in fisheries in the Pacific during my time in government. Since the late 1970s, through the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency, the Pacific islands have used their fisheries jurisdiction cooperatively and collaboratively to great effect. Their waters house literally half the world’s tuna, and by adopting collective approaches to regulate access by foreign vessels wishing to fish in their waters, they have been able to manage these valuable resources very effectively, prevent overfishing, and significantly enhance their economic returns. They’ve developed some really interesting conditions – for example, a sub-group have established minimum benchmark fees for foreign fishing access, which have increased their collective returns from $50 million to $500 million over the past ten years. They also require that vessels fishing in their waters agree not to fish in certain ‘pockets’ of the high seas. So essentially, these small island developing states have found innovative ways to expand the effect of their coastal state jurisdiction by acting collectively.

Ultimately, my thesis considers two things. Firstly, I outline the current extent of a coastal state’s jurisdiction over living resources, and the various ways they could use this power if they chose to – essentially, the regulatory options that are available to them now. Secondly, I provide a broader statement about the underlying nature of jurisdiction at sea, which endures over time. Things have changed since the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea was adopted in 1982 – for example, we now have massive factory ships, illegal fishing, climate change, consumer pressure for seafood labelling and the eradication of slavery at sea. All these things are changing the activities and situations that states need to be able to regulate. So the second part of my thesis provides a yardstick against which to consider the exercise of coastal state jurisdiction over time, as needs and interests change.

How does this research impact current events, debates or academic controversies?

My thesis is really focussed on how states actually implement the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea. Existing literature tends to focus on interpreting the text of the Convention – and courts and tribunals do the same. Yet states are engaging in a huge amount of practice that interprets this text in very tangible ways, and if people don’t look at what is happening in practice, we risk establishing ‘parallel’ views of what the law actually is.

So my thesis looks at the actual practice of 150 states and tries to take a real-world approach to understanding how jurisdiction is really being exercised, and to make sure the law is fit for purpose. Of course, it’s also critical to identify when state practice actually falls outside the framework established in the Convention (although the framework is pretty flexible).

What influenced your decision to choose ANU to pursue your PhD?

I was on a full-paid scholarship to do my PhD through the Sir Roland Wilson Foundation. The Foundation is a fantastic way for public servants to pursue doctoral study and contribute to evidence-based public policy on issues of ongoing public interest.

I was really fortunate to have great supervision here. Professor Donald Rothwell FAAL was my primary supervisor and he was fantastic. Associate Professor Sarah Heathcote and Professor Robert McLaughlin were also great, and brought different perspectives. The balance of the people who I was able to work with as supervisors helped to give me a really rounded PhD that ticked all the boxes. I wanted to produce something that was about law of the sea but also sat really firmly in general international law. It needed to be useful for government and also satisfy the requirements of academia.

How would you describe the research culture amongst PhD students at the ANU College of Law?

We developed a really great culture among the PhD students – there’s a small but excellent cohort on campus. To have that support, network and sense of community is really important, and I developed some enduring friendships. My favourite aspect of this was the weekly ‘Shut Up and Write’ sessions that we held on Fridays – which were a great opportunity to not only get lots of work done, but to engage with colleagues, and share problems and solutions (and some home-baked goodies).

What advice would you give to someone considering pursuing a PhD in law?

People say that a PhD is a lonely journey, but I’m not sure that’s true. You do it alone, it’s your work, and you need to own it and drive it - but you can do it in a real community, which you can find and build yourself on campus, and even online. It’s very likely that the people whose work is most closely related to yours are not located close by! I developed a great network of colleagues outside Canberra and Australia, with whom I am still in regular contact. Just run your own race, stay in your own lane, and don’t look at what other people are doing. No one’s PhD journey is the same as yours, no one’s topic is the same as yours, and no one’s situation is the same as yours.

Enjoy it; it’s the only time of your life that you’ll have this experience. So take the time to enjoy it, rather than stressing and struggling through it. And make sure you identify small achievements to reward yourself for along the way, and feel really good about.


This article originally appeared on the ANU College of Law website.


The Sir Roland Wilson Foundation is a partnership between The Australian National University, Charles Darwin University and the Australian Public Service.