Dr Kathleen Birrell

  • Dr Kathleen Birrell

    McKenzie Postdoctoral Fellow

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

Research Publications


Dr Kathleen Birrell is a McKenzie Postdoctoral Fellow at Melbourne Law School.  Her research is strongly interdisciplinary, encompassing property law, native title, environmental and climate change law, human rights law and intersections between Indigenous peoples and the law, as well as critical legal theory, philosophy of law, sociolegal studies and law and literature.  It engages with critical approaches to native title; comparative work on Indigenous and non-Indigenous approaches to property and environment, focusing on Indigenous ontologies and epistemologies; Indigenous rights at international law, including climate justice; and Indigenous and local community engagement in climate change mitigation and abatement activities.  Her postdoctoral project investigates the positioning of Indigenous and local communities in the fluid juridical and political landscape of the Anthropocene, critically examining the global imperatives of international climate change regimes and associated rights discourses.

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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 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.

Memberships and Affiliations

  • 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