Research activity per year

Personal profile

Research interests

Siobhan McDonnell is a lawyer and anthropologist with over 20 years of experience working with Indigenous people in Australia and Oceania on land rights, gender, and climate change issues. She is a Senior Lecturer at Crawford School of Public Policy, and has been a lead negotiator on climate change for the Vanuatu and Fiji governments.

Her commitment to the practice of engaged anthropology means that she produces research that contributes to high-impact policy and legal outcomes in the areas of: improved Indigenous land rights, improved natural resource management, consideration of climate change and resettlement issues, improved disaster management, innovative land reform in the space of legal pluralism and recognition of customary institutions, and legal outcomes that improve gender equity.


Career Highlights:

-  Pacific negotiator on Loss and Damage United Nations Framework Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC), Conference of the Parties negotiations (representing Vanuatu and Fiji) (2019-2022).

- Chief Investigator on an ARC Discovery Project on Climate Change and Gender in the Pacific (2018- 2023);

- Appointed to the G8 Taskforce advising Australia's Chief Medical Officer on COVID meansures (2020);

- Lead negotiator for the Republic of Vanuatu on climate change and regional political issues (West Papua) Pacific Island Forum and international forums (2019-2021);

- Chief Investigator on the evaluation of a $8.25 million project looking at the use of family dispute resolution in the context of family violence in Indigenous and refugee families (2017-2020);

- Awarded the Australian Anthropology prize for the best thesis in Anthropology in Australia (2017);

- Awarded the Gender Institute prize for the thesis that most contributed to the advancement of gender studies (2017);

- Chief Investigator on a project for the Solomon Islands Government to develop a land reform pathway (2015);  

- Principal drafter of a new set of land laws in Vanuatu, as well as amendments to the Constitution of the Republic of Vanuatu (2013-14);

- Legal/policy Advisor Central Land Council (2003-2008);

- Project Manager Reconciliation Australia (2001-2003);

- Research Officer Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (1999-2003).


Researcher's projects

Siobhan is currently engaged in the following research projects:

(1) issues related to gender and climate change in Oceania;

(2) research on decolonising the anthropocence;

(3) research on displacement and resettlement in the context of climate change and disaster;

(4) land reform and Indigenous rights in Oceania and Australia;

(5) critical water issues for remote Aboriginal communities in central Australia,

(6) working alongside Yuin scholars on cultural burning and other Indigenous knowledge practices, and

(7) how to adapt the family law system to better meet the needs of Indigenous, refugee and migrant families and;

Current student projects

  • Maeve Powell. Indigenous Wellbeing in Urban Spaces: expressing voice through walking and photography in Canberra (PhD Supervisor).
  • Evie Rose. Not drowning, fighting: geopolitics, gender and the rising tides of climate change diplomacies in Ocenaia. (PhD Supervisor).
  • Trish Tupou. Recasting Tongan Sovereignty:Land, Gender and Indigeneity. (PhD Supervisor).
  • Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner. Thesis title TBD. (PhD Panel Member).
  • Sarou Long. The Indigenous Communal Land Title Programme in Cambodia: Indigenous Identity, and Relationships to Land and State (PhD Panel Member).
  • Jade Anderson. Migrant? Refugee? Neither? Both?  “Mixed Migration” and the Production of Difference in Human Mobility (PhD Panel Member).
  • Sam Provost. Challenging the cadastre: counter-mapping Yuin landscapes to reinscribe Country (PhD Panel Member).

Past student projects

Completed students: 

  • Oliver Liford. Our Pacific Not Yours to Destroy: Oceania and the Anticipatory Politics of the Deep-sea Mining Frontier.  (Honours Thesis, Primary supervisor). 
  • Evie Rose. Undervalued, Not Underwater: A Talanoa on Climate Change in Oceania (Honours Thesis, Primary supervisor). Subsequently awarded the Gender Institute prize.
  • Méabh Cryan. Report on ‘Property, State Land and Lisan: Assembling the Land and the State in Post-Independence Timor-Leste’. (Joint Primary supervisor).
  • Emily Crawford. 'A gender analysis of food security and food sovereignty in Vanuatu: potential pathways for a multi-vocal approach in changing climate' (Masters Thesis, Primary Supervisor).
  • Almah Tararia. Women's political participation and decison-making in New Ireland, PNG (PhD Panel Member).




In both of these courses students play innovative online games to learn in an applied context the lecture material delivered in the course.


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Network (past 5 years)

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