Siobhan McDonnell

Associate Professor
Crawford School of Public Policy

Siobhan is 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. Her commitment to the practice of engaged anthropology means that she produces research that contributes to high-impact policy and legal outcomes. She has contributed both research and policy outcomes in the following areas: land reform, gender and natural resource managment, climate change, disaster management, legal pluralism and the operation of customary institutions.

She is currently engaged in three major reserach 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.

Career Highlights:

Chief Investigator on a project looking at mediation 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 Governmnet 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).


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; Pacific studies; Urbanisation; Cultural heritage management; Disaster management;  Climate change; Indigenous studies and decolonisation



  • 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).
  • 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).