Dr Kathleen Birrell

  • Dr Kathleen Birrell

    McKenzie Postdoctoral Fellow

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

Research Publications Counter Narratives Project


Dr Kathleen Birrell (PhD, LLB (Hons), BA (Hons), Grad Dip Arts) 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.  She is co-editor, with Daniel Matthews, of a special issue for the journal Law & Critique, entitled Laws for the Anthropocene: Orientations, Encounters, Imaginaries (2020).  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 Daniel Matthews, “Laws for the Anthropocene: Orientations, Encounters, Imaginaries” (2020) Law & Critique 1-6.
  • Birrell, Kathleen and Daniel Matthews, “Re-Storying Laws for the Anthropocene: Rights, Obligations and an Ethics of Encounter” (2020) Law & Critique 1-18.
  • 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, 2021, in press)
  • Birrell, Kathleen, “Narrating Nature: Climate Imaginaries in International Law” in Julia Dehm and Usha Natarajan (eds), Locating Nature: Making and Unmaking International Law (Cambridge University Press, 2021, 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


The Melbourne JD

Other School and University Responsibilities

Vice President, Law, Literature and the Humanities Association of Australasia
Co-Coordinator, MLS Early Career Researcher Network
MLS Representative, Interdisciplinary Early Career Academic Network
Member, MLS Staff Equity, Diversity and Wellbeing Committee 
Founder and Convenor, Laws and the Humanities for the Anthropocene Reading Group

Memberships and Affiliations