urban governance, local government and planning law, public participation, DIY urbanism, gender and diversity in planning, legal geography, socio-legal studies
Field of Research (FoR)
Amelia Thorpe is Associate Professor in Law at UNSW, working in the areas of planning, property and local government 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. Amelia’s approach is interdisciplinary, drawing on degrees in Architecture...view more
Amelia Thorpe is Associate Professor in Law at UNSW, working in the areas of planning, property and local government 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. 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.
Amelia’s current research explores the governance of public space (DIY urban interventions and activism for safer streets, publicly owned private spaces, infrastructure for electric vehicles, with an emphasis on connections to democracy, ownership and urban citizenship); gender and diversity in planning and development (focusing on the composition of expert advisory and decision-making bodies, and the implications of this for the quality and legitimacy of their decisions); and legal frameworks regulating housing (particularly affordable housing).
In her book, 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 Planning Theory & Practice, Journal of Law & Society, Law & Society Review and Social & Legal Studies and she serves on the editorial boards of Australian Planner and Environmental & Planning Law Journal. Some of Amelia’s publications can be downloaded for free from SSRN: http://ssrn.com/author=2832516
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 undertake 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 as community representative on the City of Sydney Local Planning Panel, co-director of Urbanistas Sydney and co-chair of the PIA NSW Women in Planning Network (which she co-founded in 2020), and a member of the board of Shelter NSW. 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 and chair of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee in Law.
Amelia has three young children and works part time.
'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)
‘Creating the City we Want: Tackling the Barriers to Housing Diversity in NSW’, Collaborative Research Project, Landcom University Roundtable, 2018, $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)
UNSW Law Research Fellowship, 2018
‘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
BEnvDes BArch (Hons) UWA, BPolSt (City Policy) (Hons) Murdoch, BA (Jurisprudence) (Hons) Oxford, LLM, Harvard, PhD, ANU
Centre for Canadian Architecture, Research Fellowship, 2020
UNSW Law Research Fellowship, 2018
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
Costa Avgoustinos, "Reconciling Climate Change and Social Justice in Earth Jurisprudence" (with Ben Golder and Gabrielle Appleby). Completed 2020.
Memberships and professional affiliations
Women in Planning Network, PIA NSW
City of Sydney, Local Planning Panel
Planning Institute of Australia
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
Guest Editor, Journal of Law and Society (with Bronwen Morgan), Spring 2018
Editorial Board member, Environmental and Planning Law Journal, 2015 -
Editorial Board member, Australian Planner, 2014 -
Casenote Editor, Harvard Environmental Law Review, 2006 - 2007
Associate Editor, Oxford University Commonwealth Law Journal, 2005 - 2006
Media and professional publications
“The homeless have no choice but to live life in public” The Sydney Morning Herald, 29 June 2017
“Bush democracy wins out but council mergers continue in Sydney” The Conversation 24 February 2017
“Tiny houses, big queues” Australian Design Review 21 October 2015
“The Block shows up limitations in definition of ownership” The Sydney Morning Herald, 7 July 2014
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.
Cities, Planning, Law and Justice (LAWS3073)
Development and Planning Law (LAWS8071)
Land and Environment Court Clinic (LAWS3302)
Food Law (LAWS3216)
Climate Law (LAWS8066)