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Still Calling Canberra Home: Anthea Roberts

Emma Macdonald

The pursuit of a career in law took Anthea Roberts from her home town before she had even completed her degree – she was one of ANU’s first exchange students to Oxford University in her third year.

There was a quick return home to complete her degree and graduate, after which she spent a year working for Chief Justice Gleeson at the High Court of Australia where she met her future husband, Jesse Clarke, who was working for Justice Kirby.

They were then off again. This time Anthea headed to New York University’s School of Law for her Masters with a specialty in international law. Jesse, also an international lawyer, headed to Cambridge University to do his Masters before joining Anthea in New York.



Anthea spent a summer working at the International Court of Justice in The Hague before joining one of the big international law firms Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, spending five years working for them in New York and then in London. From there, she took up a lectureship in international law at the London School of Economics before she received an invitation from Harvard Law School to be a Visiting Professor for a year.

“That sounded exciting and I said ‘yes’…but then I fell pregnant with our first child, so we decided to spend my maternity leave back in Canberra. I was homesick.”

After being away from Canberra for eight years, Jesse and Anthea relished returning to the city in which they had met.

“I remember how incredibly sad I was leaving Canberra at the end of my maternity leave. My family is definitely the number one thing I miss when I am away. My parents still live in the same house that I grew up in Cook which backs onto the reserve. Every time I visit them and see the mountain view, I feel happy and at peace.”

But Harvard was waiting and the family of three set off—including nine-month-old Ashley Roberts-Clarke.

At the end of the year at Harvard, Jesse (who is a dual Australian/UK national) was selected as one of the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office lawyers to be posted to the UK’s Mission to the United Nations.

“So, we picked up again and headed back to New York and I was given a Visiting Professorship at Columbia Law School. We stayed in the US for almost five years this time.”

By the time they returned in January last year, they were also bringing their newest addition— Freya—who was six months old at the time.

Their return was just in time for Ashley to start Kindergarten, Freya to start daycare, Anthea to take up a research position at RegNet at ANU and Jesse to start work at the Office of International Law in the Attorney General’s Department.

Now happily settled in Narrabundah, the family has many favourite Canberra things to do.

“We love getting breakfast and tarts from Silo in Kingston and our girls like getting milkshakes from Bittersweet in Kingston or white 
hot chocolates from Urban Pantry in Manuka. When we come back from the US, we are always really pleased to have good Australian coffee again! When we come back from Europe, we always really appreciate the great Asian food that we have here.”

And having traded in the Big Apple and Big Ben for something decidedly more sedate, Anthea is happily soaking up the
 Bush Capital.

“I love walking up and over Red Hill at sunrise or sunset and seeing all the kangaroos. At certain points, you can see bushland 
and kangaroos in the foreground and Parliament House in the background. I can’t imagine that being true of many capitals, even leaving aside the kangaroos. I think it is just lovely.”

She also notices Canberra’s ease and quality of life.

“It is a much less stressful city to live in than New York and London. The commutes are really good and the public schools are great.”

But Anthea admits her fervour for the city sometimes elicits disbelief.

“People tease me about how much I love Canberra. When I was in New York and London, people would always say ‘oh, you are so lucky to live there!’. And that was true. No one says the equivalent to me about Canberra, yet I just adore it.

“Part of it is surely that it is 
home. But another part of it is Canberra’s unique ability to mix some of the advantages of a 
big city—government work, a good university, great restaurants and cafes—with the feeling of a small town.”

This article originally appeared as part of our STILL CALLING CANBERRA HOME article in Magazine: Home for Autumn 2018, available for free while stocks last. Find out more about Magazine here


Emma Macdonald

Emma Macdonald has been writing about Canberra and its people for more than 20 years, winning numerous awards for her journalism - including a Walkley or two - along the way. Canberra born and bred, she’s fiercely loyal to the city, tribally inner-north, and relieved the rest of the country is finally recognising Canberra’s cool and creative credentials. More about the Author