New developments in the legal status of rivers


New developments in the legal status of rivers

Level 9, Room 920
Melbourne Law School, Building 106
185 Pelham Street


More information

This event is part of the Australian Earth Laws Alliance workshop series on Exploring the Legal Status of Nature.

In 2017, four rivers have been given the status of legal persons: the Whanganui in NZ, the Ganges and Yamuna Rivers in India and the Rio Atrato in Colombia. In Victoria, the state government has committed to establishing the 'Birrarung Council' to be the voice of the Yarra River. These unprecedented developments have fundamentally altered the legal status of rivers in law. Will they also help us to protect them?

Researchers, legal practitioners and students are invited to a workshop at Melbourne Law School on Friday 11 August 2017, to hear more about these fascinating developments in the legal status of rivers. This workshop is jointly hosted by the Australian Earth Laws Alliance and the Centre of Resources, Energy and Environment Law.

Presenters at the workshop include:

• Michelle Maloney (Convenor, Australian Earth Laws Alliance) Exploring the Legal Status of Nature

• Erin O’Donnell (Senior Fellow, CREEL) Legal Rights for Rivers: the Ganges and Yamuna Rivers, India

• Julia Talbot-Jones (ANU, Crawford School) Legal Rights for the Whanganui River, New Zealand

• Dr Elizabeth Macpherson (University of Canterbury) and Lisa Caripis (Transparency International) Legal Rights for the Rio Atrato, Colombia

• Bruce Lindsay (Environmental Justice Australia) Yarra River Protection Act: A New Statutory Process

• Trent Wallis (Co-Executive Officer, Victorian Environmental Water Holder) Environmental water rights for rivers in Victoria.

The workshop will include presentations from the speakers, a Q&A session, followed by a short tea and coffee break. The final part of the workshop will include the opportunity to develop ideas and responses to the growing momentum of legal rights for nature, and the opportunities and challenges this new legal status creates for the protection of the environment.

Attendance is free, but please RSVP for planning and catering purposes.

If you have any queries, please contact:

• Erin O’Donnell -

• Christine Parker -

• Michelle Maloney -

To learn more about the changing legal status of rivers, have a listen to the podcast at:

You can also read the work of the presenters at:

This workshop is also part of a broader research and publication project run by the Australian Earth Laws Alliance on the legal status of nature, and provides an opportunity to contribute to an emerging field of law and policy.

For more information on the broader project, ‘Exploring the Legal Status of Nature’, please see

If you would like further information on the broader project, please email:

*Photo of the Yarra River by Nick Carson


  •  Bruce  Lindsay
    Bruce Lindsay, Environmental Justice Australia
  •  Lisa Caripis
    Lisa Caripis, University of Melbourne
  • Ms Julia Talbot-Jones
    Ms Julia Talbot-Jones, Australian National University
  •  Erin O'Donnell
    Erin O'Donnell, Senior Fellow, University of Melbourne Law School
  • Dr Michelle Maloney