Dr Siobhan McDonnell

PhD Legal Anthropology BEc(Hons)/LLB(Hons)
Research Fellow, National Centre for Indigenous Studies and College of Asia and the Pacific
Other ANU Non-College Academic and ANU College of Asia and the Pacific
T: xtn 50092

Research interests

Siobhan scholarly interests include: Indigenous people and land; Indigenous people, gender and natural resource management; Legal and Environmental Anthropology; Political ecology; Customary law and legal pluralism; Gender and Sexuality in the Pacific; Urbanisation; Cultural heritage management; Resettlement and migration; Disaster management; Climate change; Pacific Studies, Indigenous studies and decolonisation.



I am a highly skilled engaged legal anthropologist who has over twenty years of experience working with Indigenous people in Australia and the Pacific on land, resource management, environment and development issues. My commitment to the practice of engaged anthropology means that I produce research that contributes to high-impact policy and legal outcomes. I have contributed both research and policy outcomes in the following areas: land reform, gender and natural resource management, climate change, disaster management, legal pluralism and the operation of customary institutions.

I am currently engaged in three major research projects: (1) issues related to gender and climate change in Oceania; (2) ethnographies of 'natural' disaster and particularly the concepts of 'vulnerability' and 'resilience; and, (3) how to adapt the family law system to better meet the needs of Indigenous, refugee and migrant families.

I am currently employed as a Research Fellow at the National Centre of Indigenous Studies and at the College of Asia and the Pacific. I also teach a number of courses and recently built an online website designed to help graduate students prepare for fieldwork, to 'Navigate the Field' see: https://fieldwork.weblogs.anu.edu.au/

Career Highlights:

- Chief Investigator on the evaluation of a $12 million project looking at the use of family dispute resolution in the context of family violence in Indigenous and refugee families (2017-2018);

- Researcher on an ARC Discovery Project on Climate Change and Gender in the Pacific (2018);

- Awarded the Australian Anthropology prize for the best thesis in Anthropology in Australia (2017);

- Awarded the Gender Institute prize for the thesis that most contributed to the advancement of gender studies (2017);

- Chief Investigator on a project for the Solomon Islands Government to develop a land reform pathway (2015);  

- Principal drafter of a new set of land laws in Vanuatu, as well as amendments to the Constitution of the Republic of Vanuatu (2013-14);

- Legal/policy advisor Central Land Council (2003-2008);

- Project Manager Reconciliation Australia (2001-2003);

- Research Officer Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (1999-2003).


Researcher's projects

Dr Siobhan McDonnell is currently working on projects in Indigenous Australia and the Pacific including: 

- Climate change and gender in the Pacific (focussed on Vanuatu and Fiji);

- Land reform and indigenous land rights in the Pacific and Indigenous Australia;

- Urbanisation, displacement and resttlement in the context of climate change, disaster and eviction;

- Use of family dispute resolution processes amongst Indigenous, refugee and migrant families who have experienced violence;

- Concepts of 'resilience' and 'vulnerability' in the context of disaster management in the Pacific; and,

- The practice of activist research.

Current student projects

  • Maeve Powell. Indigenous Wellbeing in Urban Spaces: expressing voice through walking and photography in Canberra (PhD Thesis, Primary Supervisor).
  • Meabh Cryan. Concepts of Land and Life: Contested Land Access in Timor-Leste (PhD Thesis, Primary co-supervisor).


Past student projects

Completed students: 

  • Ed Wensing. Decolonising Property: How Indigenous and Settler systems of land ownerhsip, use and tenure can coexist in parity (PhD Thesis, Panel Chair).
  • Evie Rose. Undervalued, Not Underwater: A Talanoa on Climate Change in Oceania (Honours Thesis, Primary supervisor).



Projects and Grants

Grants information is drawn from ARIES. To add or update Projects or Grants information please contact your College Research Office.

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Updated:  25 April 2019 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers