AUSTRALIA Day honours for Dr Rosalie Balkin are welcome recognition for the role of international maritime transport, the respected lawyer academic and public servant says.
Dr Balkin recently was made an Officer (AO) in the General Division of the Australia Day Awards in recognition of her “distinguished service to maritime law through roles with a range of organisations, to the improvement of global shipping transport safety and standards, and to education as an academic and author”.
“It’s just that, after working in the area for so long, my impression is that aviation is seen as the glamour arm of transport,” Dr Balkin said. “Everybody seems to forget how huge a role maritime transport is in our daily lives.
“We live in an island country – the UK, where I worked for fifteen years with the IMO, is also an island state – but, despite this, people both here and there sort of seem to take the ships for granted.
“They don’t think about how much is transported daily by sea – it is a huge statistic.”
Dr Balkin has held many senior law-related roles over the years and in September last year was elected Secretary-General of the Comité Maritime International (CMI), a non-governmental international organisation based in Antwerp, Belgium, which has promoted the unification of international maritime law for more than a century.
She previously led Australian delegations to the IMO Legal Committee before being elected vice-chairman of the same Committee and going on to be its director of the Legal Affairs and External Relations Division.
For a time she was also the IMO Assistant Secretary-General.
Prior to joining the IMO, she worked in the Australian Attorney-General’s Department for more than a decade as Senior Government Counsel and then as Assistant Secretary in the Office of International Law.
“I know when I was working for government here, getting the maritime law bills through the parliament was difficult because it the subject matter was often never thought of as sufficiently important,” Dr Balkin said.
“So maritime transport industry is the poor relation in this regard and it was nice to see it acknowledged.”
Dr Balkin lives in Canberra but was born in Johannesburg and completed her BA and LLB degrees at Wits University in South Africa before moving to Australia in the late 1970s.