Associate Professor Amelia Thorpe

My Expertise

urban governance, socio-legal studies, cities, infrastructure, transport, planning law, legal geography


Fields of Research (FoR)

Law and society and socio-legal research, Urban and regional planning, Urban geography, Environmental law, Transport geography


Amelia Thorpe is Associate Professor and Director of Postgraduate Programs in Law at UNSW.

Amelia works in the areas of planning, property and environmental law, legal geography and urban studies. Her research centres on frameworks for decision-making in contemporary cities – who gets to have a say, and how – and the ways in which those frameworks might contribute to social and environmental justice. She is currently working on projects...view more

Amelia Thorpe is Associate Professor and Director of Postgraduate Programs in Law at UNSW.

Amelia works in the areas of planning, property and environmental law, legal geography and urban studies. Her research centres on frameworks for decision-making in contemporary cities – who gets to have a say, and how – and the ways in which those frameworks might contribute to social and environmental justice. She is currently working on projects looking at electric vehicles (funded by the RACE for 2030 CRC), and bicycle delivery cyclists (funded by the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications). Amelia’s approach is interdisciplinary, drawing on degrees in Architecture and City Policy as well as Law, and professional experience in public interest environmental law and in planning and urban development.

In Owning the Street: The Everyday Life of Property (MIT Press, 2020), Amelia examines how local, personal, and material understandings about belonging, ownership, and agency intersect with law to shape the city. Amelia's work is published in Australian and international journals including Journal of Law & Society, Law & Society Review, Social & Legal StudiesPlanning Theory & Practice and Urban Studies. Amelia serves on the editorial boards of Australian Planner and Environmental & Planning Law Journal and the board of the Association for Law, Property & Society. Some of Amelia’s publications can be downloaded for free from SSRN: 

Amelia joined UNSW Law in 2012, having worked previously as a director at the Environmental Defender’s Office, Australia’s largest and oldest public interest environmental law organisation. Amelia led the EDO’s legal outreach programs, including Indigenous and community engagement in NSW and a capacity-building program for environmental law in the Pacific region, working primarily on climate change at national and international levels.

Before Law Amelia studied Architecture and City Policy, and worked for the planning, transport and housing departments in Western Australia. This included the award-winning TravelSmart and Liveable Neighbourhoods programs, as well as New Metro Rail, then the largest infrastructure project ever undertaken in the state, and Dialogue with the City, a deliberative planning process involving more than 1,000 people. A particular interest in the policy and regulatory aspects of urban development led her to study law. Amelia completed law degrees at the University of Oxford and at Harvard Law School and, later, a PhD at ANU.

Amelia remains actively involved in the practice of planning, serving on the City of Sydney Local Planning Panel, the board of Shelter NSW, and as co-director of Urbanistas Sydney and co-chair of the PIA NSW Women in Planning Network (which she co-founded in 2020). Amelia has also served on numerous bodies focused on inclusion and diversity at UNSW, including as co-chair of the UNSW Women in Research Network, chair of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee in Law and Deputy Academic Lead of Athena Swan. 

Amelia has three young children and works part time.

My Grants

'Improving Safety for Bicycle Delivery Cyclists', Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications, Road Safety Innovation Fund Round 2, 2021-2023 (with Soufiane Boufous and Marilyn Johnson), $227,450

‘Electric Vehicle and Grid - Assessment Opportunity’, Reliable, Affordable, Clean Energy for 2030 Collaborative Research Centre, 2020 (with R Dargaville, D Kuch, l Meegahapola, L McIntosh, P Newman, P Paevere, CSIRO and 16 industry partners) $526,000

'Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure – Risks and Opportunities in Urban and Electricity System Planning' Digital Grid Futures Institute, 2020, $25,000 (with Declan Kuch and Nofar Sheffi)

'Paint, posts and productive polities: (re)constructing city-citizen relationships in the street', Centre for Canadian Architecture, Research Fellowship, 2020 (approx. $20,000) (deferred due to Covid-19)

‘Creating the City we Want: Tackling the Barriers to Housing Diversity in NSW’, Collaborative Research Project, Landcom University Roundtable, 2018-2020, $153,510 (with Gerard Reinmuth, Brooke Jackson, Harry Scheule and Adrian Lee, UTS, and Louise Crabtree and Neil Perry, WSU)

‘Urban renewal and the privatisation of public space: implications for democracy and equity’, Cross-Faculty Research Grant, 2018, $9,853 (with Luke McNamara, Laura Crommelin, Alyce McGovern, Chris Martin, Nofar Sheffi and Philip Wadds)

‘6th Fordham International and Comparative Urban Law Conference’ Law Workshop Support Scheme, 2018, $3,750 (with Cathy Sherry)

'Planning, Parking and the Practice of Property', UNSW Law Research Fellowship, 2018 (in-kind, $25,000 equivalent)

‘Constituting Cities: Multi-disciplinary perspectives on the governance of urban spaces’ Law Workshop Support Scheme, 2017, $8,000 (with Luke McNamara)

‘Co-Producing Multi-Media Resources for Environmental Law’, UNSW Learning and Teaching Innovation Grant, 2014, $25,000 (with Cameron Holley)

‘Reducing Corruption Risks in Climate Change’, United Nations Development Programme, 2010, US$24,000

‘Negotiation Training for Multilateral Environmental Agreements’, Secretariat for the Pacific Regional Environment Programme, 2010, US$5,000

My Qualifications

BEnvDes BArch (Hons) UWA, BPolSt (City Policy) (Hons) Murdoch, BA (Jurisprudence) (Hons) Oxford, LLM, Harvard, PhD, ANU

My Awards

People's Choice Award, UNSW Presidents Awards, 2017 (WiRN Executive Committee)

Legal Innovation Index (winner, individual category), 2016

Lawyers Weekly Women in Law Awards, Academic of the Year (finalist), 2016

Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence (early career), 2014

Australian and New Zealand Law and History Society prize, 2014

Distinguished Environmental Law Education Award (junior category), IUCN Academy, 2014

Salzburg Global Fellow, 2013

Future Thought Leader, HC Coombs Policy Forum, Australian National University, 2012

Saltonstall Scholarship, Harvard Law School, 2006

My Research Supervision

Currently supervising

Jodie Hampson, "Enabling Cooperative Platform Economies: Tools, Rules and Practices" (with Bronwen Morgan and Selena Griffith)

Oxana Wolfson, "Finding the Fulcrum: Developing a Balance in Addressing Economic and Social Interests in California Urban Water Regulation" (with Fleur Johns and Weihuan Zhou)

Yutong Wang, MPH, "A study of Australian news media coverage of deaths involving food delivery riders—a longitudinal analysis and case study" (external supervisor for the University of Sydney, with James Kite). Completed 2021.

Costa Avgoustinos, "Reconciling Climate Change and Social Justice in Earth Jurisprudence" (with Ben Golder and Gabrielle Appleby). Completed 2020.

My Engagement

Memberships and professional affiliations

Research network on Utopian Legalities, Radical Governance and Prefigurative Politics

Women in Planning Network, PIA NSW

City of Sydney, Local Planning Panel

Planning Institute of Australia

Sydney Urbanistas

Association of Law, Property and Society

International Academic Association of Planning, Law and Property Rights

Institute of Australian Geographers, Legal geography study group

Australian and New Zealand Law and History Society

IUCN Commission on Environmental Law

New York Bar, attorney

Editorial roles

Australian Planner, Editorial Board member, 2014-2021, Co-editor, 2022 - 

Journal of Law and Society, Guest Editor (with Bronwen Morgan), Spring 2018

Environmental and Planning Law Journal, Editorial Board member, 2015 -

Harvard Environmental Law Review, Casenote Editor, 2006 - 2007

Oxford University Commonwealth Law Journal, Associate Editor, 2005 - 2006


My Teaching

Amelia's teaching has been recognized with a Distinguished Environmental Law Education Award from the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law, a UNSW Vice-Chancellor's Award for Teaching Excellence, and a Lexis Nexis Legal Innovation Award.

Courses taught

Cities, Planning, Law and Justice (LAWS3073)

Land and Environment Court Clinic (LAWS3302)

Land Law (LAWS2383)

Development and Planning Law (LAWS8071)

Food Law (LAWS3216)

Principles of Private Law (LAWS1150)

Climate Law (LAWS8066)

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Room 314
The Law Building
University of New South Wales
UNSW Kensington Campus
Sydney NSW 2052
(Access via Gate 2 off High Street)


+61 2 9385 7602
+61 2 9385 1175