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Erin O'Donnell

Senior Lecturer, Melbourne Law School, The University of Melbourne

Erin has over twenty years of experience in water law and policy, in the private and public sectors. She is recognized internationally for her research into the groundbreaking new field of legal rights for rivers, and the challenges and opportunities these new rights create for protecting the multiple social, cultural and natural values of rivers. Her work is informed by comparative analysis across Australia, New Zealand, the USA, India, Colombia, and Chile. Erin’s latest book, Legal Rights for Rivers: Competition, Collaboration, and Water Governance, is available now from Routledge. Erin has recently completed a consultancy for The World Bank, on water markets and their role in water security and sustainable development. In 2018, Erin was appointed to the inaugural Birrarung Council, the voice of the Yarra River. In 2023, Erin commenced an ARC-funded research project in partnership with Traditional Owners in Victoria, to determine the potential of Treaty processes to address legitimacy and sustainability problems in settler state water law.


  • –present
    Senior Fellow, Centre for Resources, Energy and Environment Law, University of Melbourne


  • 2017 
    University of Melbourne, PhD (Law)
  • 2008 
    Deakin University, LL.B (Hons)
  • 2002 
    University of Adelaide, B.Sc. (Hons)


  • 2018
    At the Intersection of the Sacred and the Legal: Rights for Nature in Uttarakhand, India, Journal of Environment Law
  • 2017
    Competition or Collaboration? Using Legal Persons to Manage Water for the Environment in Australia and the United States, Environmental and Planning Law Journal
  • 2013
    Australia's environmental water holders: who is managing our environmental water?, Australian Environment Review
  • 2013
    Common Legal and Policy Factors in the Emergence of Environmental Water Managers., Water and Society II.
  • 2013
    Rivers as a Nexus of Culture, Ecology and Technology., Global Water Forum
  • 2012
    Institutional reform in environmental water management: the new Victorian Environmental Water Holder, Journal of Water Law