Ms Mary Spiers Williams

B.A. (Hons) USyd; LLB (Hons) USyd; GradDipLegPrac
Associate Dean Indigenous Studies
ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
T: +61 2 6125 6456

Areas of expertise

  • Criminal Law And Procedure 180110
  • Law And Society 180119
  • Access To Justice 180102
  • Legal Institutions (Incl. Courts And Justice Systems) 180120
  • Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander History 210301
  • Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander Law 180101
  • Legal Practice, Lawyering And The Legal Profession 180121
  • Criminology Not Elsewhere Classified 160299
  • Courts And Sentencing 160203

Research interests

  • Sociolegal studies and legal anthropology especially in relation to state criminal laws, processes and jurisdictions.
  • Legal Pluralism and First Laws
  • First Peoples' perspectives on State laws
  • Culture and legal discourse
  • Aboriginal Peoples' knowledges, ways of knowing, experiences, and rights.


Mary Spiers Williams is the Sub Dean of Australian Indigenous Studies at the Australian National University and is a lecturer in law. She currently convenes Australian Indigenous Studies.

Her research interests are in sociolegal studies and legal anthropology, concern the impact of state laws on First Peoples (especially criminal laws), and centring the knowledge, law and insights of First Peoples in Australia.

Prior to joining academia full-time, Mary researched in criminology, practiced criminal law in NSW and the NT, was senior policy officer in the Criminal Law Review Division of the NSW Attorney General's Department, facilitated law and justice projects for and with Warlpiri people, and conducted community legal education for desert Peoples in central Australia.

Before becoming Sub Dean, Mary taught advanced courses on criminal justice and sentencing, the impact of state laws on First Peoples, youth law, criminology, penology, evidence, advocacy, and legal ethics and convened clinical legal programmes at the ANU and other leading Australian universities.

Researcher's projects

  • Doctoral research into legal concepts of culture and its impact on sentencing.
  • Indigenous Voices on Judicial Decision-Making
  • Cambridge Legal History of Australia


Available student projects

Available to supervise students seeking to undertake an Honours Specialisation in Australian Indigenous Studies (AINS: that relates to 

  • Indigenous perspectives on research methdology
  • Social justice
  • The impact of State Law on First Nations peoples
  • Criminal Law (including sentencing and criminal justice processes) and Evidence Law 


Past student projects

Previous topics supervised include:

2018: Sienna Lake, 'Plurality of laws, plurality of punishments: An analysis of constraints on Northern Territory courts in considering punishment under Aboriginal legal systems'

2017: Zoe Neumeyer, 'The Hardening Effect Of Appellate Processes When Sending Youth To Detention. An analysis of judgements from the Northern Territory Supreme Court'

2016: Anna Boden, 'A critical analysis of the jurisprudence on the unfairness discretion: will section 90 be exercised to exclude an admission procured by police deceit?'

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:  21 March 2023 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers