Dr Virginia Marshall

BA (Hons) BVocEd LLB GDLP GCertLaw (CrimPrac) LLM PhD (law) Macquarie University
Postdoctoral Fellow

Virginia is the Inaugural Indigenous Postdoctoral Fellow with the Australian National University's School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet) and the Fenner School of Environment and Society. She is a practising lawyer and duty solicitor, a former associate & researcher with the Federal Court of Australia in Sydney and professional member of the NSW Law Society and Women Lawyers Association of NSW. Former Senior Legal Officer of the Australian Law Reform Commission and inquiry into 'Family Violence & Commonwealth Laws: Improving Legal Frameworks' (ALRC 117), Executive Officer of the NSW Government's 'Aboriginal Water Trust' and criminal defence lawyer with NSW Legal Aid.

Virginia is the winner of the WEH Stanner Award for the best thesis by an Indigenous author, titled, 'A web of Aboriginal water rights: Examining the competing Aboriginal claim for water property rights and interests in Australia'. She is in demand as a Keynote Speaker on Indigenous water law and governance, Indigenous traditional knowledge systems and the intersectionality of western intellectual property regimes and the Indigenous commercialisation of native foods and medicines.

A lifetime member of the Golden Key International Honour Society and Magistrate for the NSW Law Society's 'Mock Trial Competition'.

Virginia is Partner Investigator (PI) with an ARC Linkage Grant, 'Garuwanga: Forming a Competent Authority to Protect Indigenous Knowledge' ($244,000) to "govern and administer a legal framework in order to ensure consent of Indigenous communities is obtained for access to Aboriginal traditional knowledge and to establish a fair and equitable benefit-sharing mechanism for use of that knowledge".

Research interests

Dr Marshall's research interests include:

  • Indigenous water law, rights & interests
  • Indigenous Traditional Knowledge, Information & Knowledge Systems
  • Indigneous commercialsiation of native foods, medicines & treatments
  • Indigenous business & management
  • Agriculture, land & farm management
  • Ecology & environmental sciences & biotechnology
  • Global Policy & Governance.

Virginia is a practicising lawyer and legal scholar, her research doctoral thesis won a prestigious award and published as a ground-breaking Aboriginal water rights book titled "Overturning aqua nullius: Securing Aboriginal water rights" and launched in Sydney by the Hon. Michael Kirby.

Honoured by the Faculty of Law at the University of Victoria, Canada, Virginia recevied the award of 'Distinguished Woman Scholar'. She is recognised by the Department of Primary Industries 'Hidden Treasures Honour Roll' of outstanding rural volunteers, contributing to the well-being and unity of regional communities.

Virginia's Indigenous Postdoctoral research position with Australian National University's School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet) and the Fenner School of Environment and Society will focus on leading law reform for Indigenous peoples in Australia, by critically anaylsing international Indigenous water use, to develop Indigenous cuturally appropriate mechanisms for national water frameworks and ethical water use within domestic water regimes.


  • Overturning aqua nullius: Securing Aboriginal water rights in Australia (Foreword by the Hon. Michael Kirby AC CMG) Aboriginal Studies Press, February 2017.

Recent peer-reviewed book chapters

  • Marshall V, ‘Overturning aqua nullius: Pathways to national law reform’ Chapter 19, pp. 176-183 in New Direction of Law in Australia, Australian National University Press, October 2017 and e-book https://press.anu.edu.au/publications/new-directions-law-australia
  • Marshall V, ‘A reconstructed metaphor for Aboriginal property rights and interests in Australia: The challenges in normalizing Aboriginal ontology into Western concepts of knowledge and resources’  Chapter 7, pp. 149-205, Indigenous Knowledge Forum – Comparative Systems for Recognising and Protecting Indigenous Knowledge and Culture, Lexis Nexis 2017.
  • Marshall V, Challenges in Bridging Customary Law and State Law for Indigenous Knowledge Protection “forthcoming Oct 2018” Book chapter, Lexis Nexis, Sydney.

Recent journals

  • Marshall, V., ‘Deconstructing aqua nullius: Reclaiming Aboriginal water rights and communal identity in Australia’ 2016 8(26) Indigenous Law Bulletin pp. 9-13.
  • Marshall, V., ‘The progress of Aboriginal water rights and interests in the Murray-Darling Basin in NSW’ December 2015 Australian Environment Review pp. 158-163.
  • Marshall, V., ‘Negotiating Indigenous access and benefit sharing agreements in genetic resources and scientific research’ 2013 8(8) Indigenous Law Bulletin pp. 14-17.
  • Marshall, V., Janke, T & Watson, A., ‘Community economic development in patenting traditional knowledge: A case study of the mudjala TK project in the Kimberley region of Western Australia’ 2013 8(6) Indigenous Law Bulletin pp. 17-21.
  • Marshall, V., & Bao-Er, ‘Indigenous guardians ad litem are needed in child protection cases’ 2012 Social Science Research Network e-journal https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2235426
  • Marshall, V., ‘Income management in the context of family violence’ 2011 7(26) Indigenous Law Bulletin pp. 22-25.

Australian Law Reform Commission

  • Marshall V, Australian Law Reform Commission, November 2011, Report 117 Family Violence and Commonwealth Laws – Improving Legal Frameworks, Chapter 10, pp. 247-283.


Recent conferences

  • Keynote Speaker, ‘Watersheds Conference’ Centre for the Study of the Inland La Trobe University, 28 November to 1 December 2017.
  • Speaker, ‘A national workshop going beyond the crisis response: Building trust and maintaining legitimacy in environmental flows’ the Centre for Resources, Energy and Environmental Law University of Melbourne Law School, Melbourne School of Engineering and the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, 27-28 November 2017.
  • Speaker, ‘Exploring the legal status of nature’, Australian Earth Laws Alliance Seminar, University of Technology Sydney, 9 November 2017.
  • Speaker, ‘18th Biennial Copyright Law and Practice Symposium 2017’ Australian Copyright Council & Copyright Society of Australia, Sydney, 12-13 October 2017.
  • Speaker, ‘20th River Symposium and Environmental Flows Conference’ International River Foundation, Brisbane, 18-20 September 2017.
  • Keynote Speaker, ‘New science for a changing world’ Australian Society for Limnology Conference, UTS, 24-28 September 2017.
  • Keynote Speaker, ‘New developments in the legal status of rivers’ the Centre for Resources, Energy and Environmental Law University of Melbourne Law School and Australian Earth Laws Alliance, 11 August 2017.
  • Speaker, National Native Title Conference, 5-7 June 2017, Townsville, Queensland.
  • Marshall, Dr V., Professors Natalie Stoianoff and Fiona Martin, ‘Garuwanga: Forming a Competent Authority to Protect Indigenous Knowledge’ the National Indigenous Research Conference, the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Canberra, 21-23 March 2017.
  • Speaker, ‘Challenges in Bridging Customary Law and State Law for Indigenous Knowledge Protection’ Indigenous Knowledge Forum Governance Systems for Data Management & Benefit Sharing, UTS Faculty of Law, Sydney, 14 December 2016.
  • Speaker, ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Pathways to Success: Enhancing the Transition to Higher Degrees’ Research Symposium, University of Queensland, 8 November 2016.
  • Keynote Speaker ‘Healing a Fractured Society: Moving Beyond a Flawed Justice System’ FIRE Symposium ‘Decolonising Criminal Justice: Indigenous Perspectives on Social Harm, University of Wollongong, 24 November 2016.
  • Keynote Speaker, ‘From deception to delusion: The colonial dynamics of Aboriginal citizenship, water and human rights’, Colonial and Settler Studies, Symposium ‘Colonial Formations: Connections and Collisions’, University of Wollongong, 23-24 November 2016.
  • Speaker, ‘Indigenous Cultural Competency for Legal Academics Program’, College of Law, Australian National University, 7-8 September 2016.
  • Speaker, ‘Overturning aqua nullius: Pathways to National Law Reform’, Inaugural National Law Reform Conference, the Australian National University, 14–15 April 2016.
  • Keynote Speaker, ‘Deconstructing aqua nullius: The interrelationship of land, water and health’, Indigenous Peoples and Saltwater/Freshwater Governance for a Sustainable Future Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies and the Australian National University, Hobart Australia, 11-12 February 2016.
  • Marshall, V.A. and Allen, M., ‘Traditional Knowledge and Commercialisation’ Oceania Biodiscovery Forum, Eskitis Institute, Griffith University, Brisbane, 19-23 November 2012.
  • Speaker, ‘Conceptualising Ethical Practice: Indigenous Knowledge Management in a Legal Paradigm’ 1st Indigenous Knowledge Forum, UTS Faculty of Law, Sydney, 1-3 August 2012.
  • Keynote Speaker Traditional Knowledge and Aboriginal Water Rights’ Litigating the Boundaries of Sovereignty, LIRC Symposium, University of Wollongong, 23-25 May 2012.
  • Speaker ‘Indigenous Water Rights and Governance’, Trade, Intellectual Property and the Knowledge of Indigenous Peoples: The Developmental Frontier University of Victoria, Aotearoa New Zealand, 7-10 December 2010.

Recent seminars

  • ‘Aboriginal perspectives on the commercialisation of bush foods: Aboriginal laws and cultural protocols’, School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, University of Queensland, 6 October 2017.
  • ‘Developing consistent and institutional frameworks for incorporating Indigenous water rights into Australian federal and state laws’, the Fenner School of the Environment & Society, the Australian National University, 27 June 2017.
  • ‘Overturning aqua nullius and reaffirming the Indigenous rule of laws(s), the School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet), 4 April 2017.
  • ‘Overturning aqua nullius: Securing Aboriginal water rights’, the School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet), 5 April 2017.
  • ‘A web of Aboriginal water rights’ the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, 5 February 2015.https://vimeo.com/120666748