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The Associate Dean of the Melbourne Law Masters at the University of Melbourne, Professor Saunders was made a Knight in the National Order of the Legion of Honour by the Ambassador of France to Australia, Mr Stéphane Romatet.
Professor Saunders is among the less than five Australians that receive the honour each year.
The honour was in recognition of the significant contribution Professor Saunders has made to France, particularly in her role as head of the International Association of Constitutional Law from 2004 to 2007, as well as her teaching commitments at the University Paris II, one of France’s pre-eminent law schools.
In bestowing the award, Mr Romatet paid tribute to Professor Saunders' work with the IACL.
“Everyone knows the reputation of this association which gathers the best practitioners of the highest possible level from all around the world, not only exchanging good practices and reflections but also providing advice and services to states, especially states in difficult situations, states facing constitutional changes,” Mr Romatet said.
“Constitutional law is not a theoretical matter … it is simply the life of our institutions, it is the balance of the powers amongst our institutions, and this is also the strength of our democracies.”
Professor Saunders said her engagement with French culture during her extended time overseas had a profound effect on her scholarly work.
“My immersion in French legal culture and interaction with French legal colleagues gave me insights into comparative and constitutional law that I would never otherwise have acquired. This has shaped much of my work, even on Australian constitutional law, for the last decade and more,” she said.
“Thanks to France I’ve learnt that there are very different holistic perspectives on law and life in this world, shaped by history, culture and language. These are competitive - and often compelling - sources of ideas. So while gratefully accepting this honour, it is important that I also acknowledge the debt. I am proud to have received this extraordinary honour from the French Republic, I will treasure it and will do my best to live up to it.”
Professor Saunders has had a distinguished career in constitutional law - she was founding Director of the Melbourne Law School’s Centre for Comparative Constitutional Studies, a Foundation Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law and an editor of the Public Law Review.