Siobhan McDonnell's picture

Siobhan McDonnell

Associate Professor


PhD Legal Anthropology (ANU), B.Ec (Hons) (ANU), LLB (Hons) (ANU)

Contact details

Dr Siobhan McDonnell is an Associate Professor at the Crawford School of Public Policy at The Australian National University. Siobhan is a lawyer and anthropologist who has over twenty-five years of experience working with Indigenous people in Australia and the Pacific. Since 2019 she has worked as a and has been a lead negotiator on climate change for various Pacific governments. Her commitment to decolonial practice also means she has run land cases for Indigenous groups, and in 2014 supported the Vanuatu government by delivering land reforms to support better Indigenous land rights.

Dr McDonnell’s commitment to the practice of engaged anthropology means that she produces research that contributes to high-impact policy and legal outcomes in the areas of: improved Indigenous land rights, improved natural resource management, consideration of climate change and resettlement issues, improved disaster management, innovative land reform in the space of legal pluralism and recognition of customary institutions, and legal outcomes that improve gender equity.

Career Highlights:

  • Lead negotiator for various Pacific Island countries on climate change and regional political issues in various United Nations and regional and forums (2019-2024).

  • Awarded an ARC DECRA: “Not drowning, fighting?: UN climate governance and Pacific Island countries” to conduct event ethnography of UN climate governance alongside a team of Pacific Islander researchers.

  • Chief Investigator on the evaluation of a $8.25 million project looking at the use of family dispute resolution in the context of family violence in Indigenous and refugee families (2017-2020);

  • Chief Investigator on an ARC Discovery Project on Climate Change and Gender in the Pacific (2018- 2021);

  • 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 Government 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).

Current student projects

  • Trish Tupou. Shape Shifters: Transformative Tongan Women (PhD Supervisor).

  • Evie Rose. Not drowning, fighting: geopolitics, gender and the rising tides of climate change diplomacies in Ocenaia. (PhD Supervisor).

  • Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner. Thesis title TBD. (PhD Panel Member).

  • Sarou Long. The Indigenous Communal Land Title Programme in Cambodia: Indigenous Identity, and Relationships to Land and State (PhD Panel Member).

  • Jade Anderson. Migrant? Refugee? Neither? Both? “Mixed Migration” and the Production of Difference in Human Mobility (PhD Panel Member).

  • Sam Provost. Challenging the cadastre: counter-mapping Yuin landscapes to reinscribe Country (PhD Panel Member).

Past student projects

Completed students

  • Almah Tararia. Women’s political participation and decison-making in New Ireland, PNG (PhD Panel Member).

  • Evie Rose. Undervalued, Not Underwater: A Talanoa on Climate Change in Oceania (Honours Thesis, Primary supervisor). Subsequently awarded the Gender Institute prize.

  • Méabh Cryan. Report on ‘Property, State Land and Lisan: Assembling the Land and the State in Post-Independence Timor-Leste’. (Joint Primary supervisor).

  • Emily Crawford. ‘A gender analysis of food security and food sovereignty in Vanuatu: potential pathways for a multi-vocal approach in changing climate’ (Masters Thesis, Primary Supervisor).

Co-Convenor Masters of Applied Anthropology and Participatory Development

Convenor Higher Degree Research Program in the Resources, Environment and Development Group (Crawford School)

Updated:  18 July 2024/Responsible Officer:  Crawford Engagement/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team