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 highly skilled engaged legal anthropologist who has over twenty years of experience working with Indigenous people in Australia and the Pacific on climate change, 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 management, climate change, disaster management, resettlement issues, legal pluralism and the operation of customary institutions.

She has previously worked as a policy advisor at the Central Land Council and at Reconciliation Australia. She began her research career at the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research. In 2014, she 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. She is currently a Chief Investigator on two projects (1) Gendered impacts of Climate Change in Oceania, (2) Evaluation of a $8.25million family violence project working with Indigenous, refugee and migrant families across 8 locations.

Career Highlights:

  • Lead drafting committee negotiator for the Republic of Vanuatu on climate change and regional political issues (West Papua) in various regional and international forums (2019-2020).

  • 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

  • Maeve Powell. Indigenous Wellbeing in Urban Spaces: expressing voice through walking and photography in Canberra (PhD Supervisor).

  • Evie Rose. Not drowning, fighting: geopolitics, gender and the rising tides of climate change diplomacies in Ocenaia. (PhD Supervisor). Trish Tupou. Recasting Tongan Sovereignty:Land, Gender and Indigeneity. (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).

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

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

Past student projects

Completed students

  • 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). 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:  22 February 2024/Responsible Officer:  Crawford Engagement/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team