Dr Kathleen Birrell

  • Dr Kathleen Birrell

    McKenzie Postdoctoral Fellow

+61 3 8344 6902 | kbirrell@unimelb.edu.au

Find an Expert Counter Narratives Project


Dr Kathleen Birrell is a McKenzie Postdoctoral Fellow at Melbourne Law School.  Her postdoctoral project is focused on encounters between juridical, political and cultural narratives in the context of climate change.

Her research adopts critical legal methodologies to consider the limits and possibilities of rights and obligations and encounters between laws in the context of the Anthropocene thesis.  Her research is strongly interdisciplinary, encompassing environmental and climate change law, rights law, property law and native title, and intersects with Indigenous jurisprudences, literature and the environmental humanities.

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Kathleen is the author of Indigeneity: Before and Beyond the Law (Routledge, 2016).  This book examines contested notions of indigeneity, the troubled juxtaposition of law and justice in the context of Indigenous legal claims and literary expressions, the contested history and jurisprudence of native title, international and national discourses of rights and recognition, postcolonialism and resistance in ‘settler’ nation states, and the mutually constitutive relation between law and literature.

Kathleen completed a PhD (Law) at Birkbeck, University of London, under the supervision of Professor Peter Fitzpatrick, and an LLB (Hons), BA (Hons) and Graduate Diploma in Arts (English Literature) at The University of Melbourne.  She has taught at Birkbeck, University of London, and The University of Melbourne.  Prior to entering academia, she worked at a leading Australian commercial law firm, specialising in environmental, property and native title law.

Selected Publications:

  • Birrell, Kathleen and Julia Dehm, “International Law and the Humanities in the Anthropocene” in Shane Chalmers and Sundhya Pahuja (eds), Routledge Handbook of International Law and the Humanities (Routledge, 2020, forthcoming)
  • Birrell, Kathleen, “Resilience, Rupture, Resistance: Climate Catastrophism & Reimagination in International Law” in Julia Dehm and Usha Natarajan (eds), Locating Nature: Making and Unmaking International Law (Cambridge University Press, 2020, in press)
  • Birrell, Kathleen and Lee Godden, “Benefits and Sharing: Realizing Rights in REDD+” (2018) 9(1) Journal of Human Rights and the Environment 6-31
  • Birrell, Kathleen, Indigeneity: Before and Beyond the Law (Routledge, 2016)
  • Birrell, Kathleen, “An Idea of Justice” (2013) 22(1) Griffith Law Review 87
  • Birrell, Kathleen, Lee Godden and Maureen Tehan, “Climate Change and REDD+: Property as a Prism for Conceiving Indigenous Peoples’ Engagement” (2012) 3(2) Journal of Human Rights and the Environment 196
  • Birrell, Kathleen, “‘An Essential Ghost’: Indigeneity Within the Legal Archive” (2010) 33 Australian Feminist Law Journal 81
  • Birrell, Kathleen, “Indigeneity: Before and Beyond the Law” (2010) 51 Studies in Law, Politics and Society, Special Issue: Interdisciplinary Legal Studies: The Next Generation 219

Other School and University Responsibilities

Co-Coordinator, MLS Early Career Researcher Network
Founder and Convenor, Laws and the Humanities for the Anthropocene Reading Group

Memberships and Affiliations

  • Member of the Association for the Study of Law, Culture, and the Humanities
  • Member of the Law, Literature and the Humanities Association of Australasia
  • Member of the Global Network for the Study of Human Rights and the Environment
  • Member of the Institute for International Law and the Humanities, Melbourne Law School
  • Member of the Centre for Resources, Energy and Environmental Law, Melbourne Law School