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The Australian National University

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

Areas of expertise

  • Pacific Cultural Studies 200210
  • Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander Law 180101
  • Culture, Gender, Sexuality 200205
  • Social And Cultural Anthropology 160104
  • Human Rights Law 180114
  • Property Law (Excl. Intellectual Property Law) 180124
  • Environmental And Natural Resources Law 180111

Research interests

Siobhan scholarly interests include: Indigenous people and land; Property rights issues; Social justice issues for Indigenous people; Gender and natural resource management; Legal Anthropology; Customary law and legal pluralism; Pacific studies; Indigenous History; Urbanisation; Cultural Economics; Cultural heritage management; Disaster recovery and climate change.


Dr. Siobhan McDonnell is an impact academic who produces research work that informs public policy outcomes. Dr McDonnell is a lawyer, economist with a doctorate in Legal Anthropology. She is currently employed as a Research Fellow at the National Centre of Indigenous Studies and at the College of Asia and the Pacific.

Dr McDonnell has over twenty years experience working in Indigenous Australia and in the Oceania. She previously worked as a legal and policy advisor at the Central Land Council and at Reconciliation Australia. She began her research career at the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research. She has served three terms as the Legal Advisor to Vanuatu’s Minister for Lands, Ralph Regenvanu.

In 2014 Dr McDonnell was the principal drafter of a new set of land laws in Vanuatu, as well as amendments to the Constitution of the Republic of Vanuatu. In 2015 she worked with the Solomon Islands Government to develop a pathway for land reform discussions.

Dr McDonnell specialised in issues related to natural resource management and gender. In 2017 she was awarded the Gender Institute prize for the PhD dissertation that most contributed to the advancement of gender studies. Siobhan was also awarded the 2017 Australian Anthropology Society national prize for the best thesis in Anthropology.

In 2018 Dr McDonnell became the Chief Investigator on a project for the Australian Government Attorney General's Department on improving the delivery of Family Dispute Resolution services to Indigenous and refugee families. She is also involved in a 3 year ARC Discovery Project on gender and climate change in the Pacific.

Dr McDonnell currently convenes and lectures in a number of courses at the Australian National University and she is regularly engaged as a consultant by both government agencies and non-government organisations.


Researcher's projects

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

- an evaluation of family dispute resolution processes amongst Indigenous and Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) families;

- Constitutional law and rights for Indigenous Australians;

- how 'deficit discourse' frames engagement with Indigenous Australians;

- climate change and gender in the Pacific;

- land reform and indigneous land rights in the Pacific;

- disaster managment in the Pacific; and,

- how concepts of 'paradise' frame foreign engagement in the Pacific and are 'repossessed' by Pacific Islanders.

Current student projects

  • Maeve Powell. Indigenous Wellbeing in Urban Spaces: expressing voice through walking and photography in Canberra (PhD Thesis).
  • Meabh Cryan. Concepts of Land and Life: Contested Land Access in Timor-Leste (PhD Thesis).
  • Ed Wensing. Decolonising Property: How Indigenous and Settler systems of land ownerhsip, use and tenure can coexist in parity (PhD Thesis).
  • Athena Rogers. The challenges and opportunities of regulating traditional justice practices in Timor-Leste (Masters Thesis).
  • Evie Rose. Undervalued, Not Underwater: A Talanoa on Climate Change in Oceania (Honours Thesis).



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:  18 July 2018 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers