Ms Mary Spiers Williams

B.A. (Hons) USyd; LLB (Hons) USyd; GradDipLegPrac
Sub Dean Indigenous Studies
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 jurisdiction
  • 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.  She currently teaches introductory courses in Australian Indigenous Studies, and convenes courses in decolonising research.

Prior to joining academia full-time, Mary researched in criminology, practiced criminal law in NSW and the NT at all levels, was a senior policy officer in criminal law reform for the NSW Attorney General's Department, facilitated law and justice projects with and for Warlpiri people, and conducted community legal education for Aboriginal communities in central Australia.

Mary began teaching at universities in 1999, initally undergraduate criminal law course. Since then she has continued to teach criminal law and procedure, as well as advanced courses in criminal justice and sentencing, courses on the impact of state laws on First Peoples, youth law, criminology, penology, evidence, advocacy, and legal ethics at the ANU and other leading Australian universities, and convened clinical legal programmes.

Her research interests are in the impact of state laws on First Peoples, and centring the knowledge and insights of Australian First Peoples on sociolegal studies and legal anthropology.

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:  28 October 2021 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers