Associate Professor Robert Mathews OAM

Principal Fellow


Robert (Bob) Mathews is an honorary Associate Professor at the University of Melbourne Law School and until recently Head of the Nuclear Biological and Chemical (NBC) Arms Control Unit of the Australian Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO).

He spent his early years at DSTO undertaking scientific research in the detection and analysis of chemical warfare agents, including several years of international collaboration with UK, USA and Canada on the development of the Chemical Agent Monitor (CAM). He served as Scientific Adviser to the Australian Delegation to the UN Conference on Disarmament in the negotiation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in Geneva from 1984, and since 1993 has provided scientific support to the Australian delegation to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) which is located in The Hague. He has also provided support to Australia's efforts towards the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, including support for the Australia Group export licensing measures since its inception in 1985, and in the efforts to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC).

Mathews has also been actively engaged in the Asia-Pacific region since the late 1980s. He has organised several regional workshops, including the first BWC Regional Workshop, co-hosted by the Asia Pacific Centre for Military Law (APCML) in 2005. He has also made many visits to regional countries for arms control and disarmament consultations, including providing guidance in their preparations for national implementation of the CWC and BWC, and in developing strategies to raise the barriers to CB-terrorism.

Mathews has been collaborating with the University of Melbourne Law School since 1991, which has included the development of model legislation for the domestic implementation of disarmament treaties, the study of various scientific / legal aspects of arms control agreements, and providing lectures and seminars. He has recently become involved (as Partner Investigator) in the APCML Programme on the Regulation of Emerging Military Technology which is funded by an ARC Discovery Grant, and also involves collaboration with DSTO and the Defence Science Institute.  This research project includes consideration of the challenges to the Law of Armed Conflict (International Humanitarian Law) and disarmament and arms control law posed by advances in science and technology and the resulting emerging military technologies.

Since the early 1990s, Mathews has been a member of various committees, including the Australian Red Cross International Humanitarian Law Committee, the International Verification Consultants Network of the Verification Research, Training and Information Centre (VERTIC), the OPCW Scientific Advisory Board, the Advisory Board of the National Centre for Biosecurity at the Australian National University, and various OPCW Temporary Working Groups.

Mathews was awarded the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Secretary's Award in 1993 and an Order of Australia Medal in 1994 for his contribution to chemical disarmament. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute in 1995, and in 2003 was awarded a Doctor of Science degree for his contribution to chemical defence and disarmament, In 2013, he was appointed a Fellow of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), and he was recently named as the first Recipient of the 'OPCW-The Hague' award, based on his contribution to achieving a world free of chemical weapons.