What is your job and what does it entail?
I am the principal lawyer at Cusack & Co, a maritime law services firm. Essentially this means I am the business owner, the lawyer, the finance director, head of marketing, and the office admin all rolled into one. I advise shippers, freight forwarders and cargo interests on how to mitigate their risk when it comes to international containerised shipping. I am encouraging my clients to take a proactive approach to managing their risk, instead of being caught short when it comes to issues such as COVID-19. I love helping my clients get the result they want and educate them on how they can protect their business and themselves.

How did you get into the world of maritime law?
Like most in the industry, I fell into maritime law. I did a maritime law moot (fake court) competition in law school and went to Brisbane to compete. It was through this that I even discovered such a concept as maritime law. Having something tangible to have a dispute over was such a refreshing change from IP, and concepts like piercing the corporate veil. Once I did the moot I was hooked on maritime law and did everything I could think of to progress my chances of practising it once I graduated law school.

What makes maritime law and trade interesting?
The people! The culture! Being in maritime and trade gets you the backstage pass to the world’s engine room. You know why those Christmas turkeys aren’t getting here in time for Christmas, or how the global economy is travelling or which retailer is about to fold. It is also amazing to see on a global scale the impact different cultural values have on how business is run. The political dance that occurs between two different parties to achieve the outcomes is different each time and fascinating to see.

Where did you grow up? What are some early memories?
I grew up right here in Melbourne. I come from a large family so we were always at my grandmother’s house celebrating someone’s birthday. Early memories are playing with my older siblings and usually accidentally getting them into trouble (like the time I jumped off the garage roof).

Why are you so passionate about women in the maritime sector?
I was raised on the belief that gender equality was going to be real by the time I got to corporate life. Sadly, it isn’t, and I’m determined to do my part in helping our sector and community reach that goal. I’m passionate about this because I believe that whether anybody, male or female, wants to stay at home with their kids, have a comfortable 9-5 job or reach to be the top of their respective industry, they alone should get to make that decision. It shouldn’t be made for them by “society norms” or senior managers making assumptions for them on what they can or can’t achieve by virtue of race, gender, sexual identity, disability etc.

How can we advance change in this area?
At last year’s IMO dinner (hosted by AMSA) I advocated for ‘imperfect progress’ on this issue, much like how the IMO tackles change. Ask yourself and your managers the hard questions: Who isn’t at the networking function and should be? Who isn’t in the meeting and should be? Who isn’t on the list for promotion and should be? Are we excluding certain people from visibility by not praising their efforts, recognising their contribution? Ask the female staff in your business one barrier you could remove to make change.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
I love seeing my friends. Whether it is our monthly breakfast catch-ups or trips away down the coast, we have the best fun and I play a mean game of 500.

What makes Melbourne a great place to live and work?
For me it’s where most of my family live which will always make it special. I also love our multicultural food scene that means I can eat basically whatever cuisine takes my fancy at any given moment. My ‘go to’ place has to be Laksa King or I Love Dumplings (both in Kensington). Always delicious and something I don’t have the time to cook myself.

Are there any Australians who you particularly admire?
My mum and dad. They have always encouraged me to go after whatever I wanted to pursue in life and barriers be damned.

Where would you like to be in 20 years?
Cultivating my own hobby farm and mini toilet paper producing factory to corner the market.

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This article appeared in the April 2020 edition of DCN Magazine