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The Australian National University

Dr Siobhan McDonnell

PhD BEc(Hons)/LLB(Hons)
Research Fellow, National Centre for Indigenous Studies
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 a lawyer, economist and an anthropologist with an interest in applied research. She is a Research Fellow at the National Centre of Indigenous Studies and a Lecturer in Pacific Studies in the College of Asia and the Pacific.

She has 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 two terms as the Legal Advisor to Vanuatu’s Minister for Lands, Ralph Regenvanu.

In 2014 Siobhan 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.

In 2015-2016 Siobhan worked as a Research Fellow in Professor Margaret Jolly’s ARC Laureate project ‘Engendering Persons, Transforming Things: Christianities, Commodities and Individualism in Oceania’.

Siobhan 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.

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.


Researcher's projects

Dr Siobhan Mcdonnell is a Legal Anthropologist with twenty years experience working on legal and policy issues with Indigenous people in Australia and Melanesia.

She completed her PhD in Legal Anthropology on Indigenous land rights titled: ‘My Land My Life: Property, Power and Identity in Land Transformations in Vanuatu’. 

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

- an evaluation of family dispute resolution processes amongst Indigenous and English as a second language (CALD) communities across Australia;

- constitutional law and rights for Indigenous Australians;

- the history of discrimination faced by Indigenous Australians under various Protection Acts;

- 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.

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).
  • Athena Rogers. The challenges and opportunities of regulating traditional justice practices in Timor-Leste (Masters Thesis).
  • Evie Rose (Honours Thesis, topic TBC).



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:  20 February 2018 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers