Associate Professor Paula O'Brien

Co-Director of Studies, Health and Medical Law

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Paula O'Brien is an Associate Professor, and Director of the Health Law and Ethics Network, the COVID-19 Research Network and the Health and Medical Law Masters at Melbourne Law School. She specialises in public health law in her research and teaching. She has a PhD from the University of Melbourne, an LLM (Class I) from the University of Cambridge, specialising in international law Melbourne, and a BA/LLB (Hons) from the University of Melbourne.

Paula researches in the area of public health law, with a focus on: (1) the regulation of corporate conduct to protect human health; (2) international economic law and human health; and (2) the regulation of health care systems. A particular focus of her work for several years has been the control of alcohol to reduce harm. She has written on many aspects of the domestic and international regulation of alcohol, including its labelling, marketing, pricing, licensing and its trade as a global commodity. Her doctoral thesis was a critique of industry self-regulation of alcohol marketing and labelling. She has a large body of work which considers the place of alcohol and alcohol regulation under international trade and investment law. An important feature of Paula’s research is its use of inter-disciplinary methods. She regularly collaborates with scholars outside of law. Paula’s work on the regulation of health care has canvassed the international right to health, accountability in health care for asylum seekers in detention, the phenomenon of privatisation, the global shortage of health workers, and access to health care for migrant workers and their families in Australia. Paula’s work is influential in the reform of law and policy, and is widely cited by scholars in cognate disciplines such as public health, medicine, and addiction science.

Paula graduated from Melbourne Law School with a first class honours degree in law and in arts in 1998. She was awarded a full Commonwealth Scholarship to undertake her Master of Laws degree at the University of Cambridge in 2008. She graduated from Cambridge Jesus with a class I degree, specialising in international law. After graduating with her LLB, Paula completed her articles and worked as a lawyer at Minter Ellison Melbourne until 2003. Her practice was principally in the area of administrative law. She advised public sector agencies on the regulation of health professionals. From 2003 – 2007, Paula was the Executive Director of the Public Interest Law Clearing House (PILCH) in Victoria, a community legal centre which engages in case work, advocacy and education to advance the public interest, in particular the position of marginalised and disadvantaged members of the community. For her work at PILCH, she was awarded the Women Lawyers 'Rising Star' Award in 2007.

Teaching (2023)

The Melbourne JD

Research Centres