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 in Law. Amelia works in planning, property and environmental law, focusing on mobility and urban governance. Her approach is sociolegal and interdisciplinary, drawing on professional experience in planning and urban development and in public interest environmental law. Amelia has a particular interest in the governance of streets and is currently leading research on food delivery cyclists funded by the...view more

Amelia Thorpe is Associate Professor in Law. Amelia works in planning, property and environmental law, focusing on mobility and urban governance. Her approach is sociolegal and interdisciplinary, drawing on professional experience in planning and urban development and in public interest environmental law. Amelia has a particular interest in the governance of streets and is currently leading research on food delivery cyclists funded by the James Martin Institute for Public Policy.

Amelia is the author of Owning the Street: The Everyday Life of Property (MIT Press, 2020), which is reviewed in Canadian Journal of Law & Jurisprudence, City & Community, Contemporary Sociology, Emotion, Space & Society, Journal of Sociology, Landscape Journal, Law & Social Inquiry, Legalities, Planning Theory and Town Planning Review. Amelia's essays and commentary have appeared in The Conversation, Griffith Review, The Guardian and The Sydney Morning Herald, among other venues. Some of her publications can be downloaded freely at:

Amelia has held fellowships and visiting appointments at UC Berkeley, McGill and the Centre for Canadian Architecture, and her research has been funded by organisations including the Australian Research Council, James Martin Institute, and the federal Office of Road Safety. She is co-editor of Australian Planner, the journal of record for the Planning Institute of Australia (PIA), and serves on the editorial board of Environmental & Planning Law Journal. Amelia also serves on the Board of Shelter NSW and on several planning and design review panels, including the Sydney Eastern City District Planning Panel and the Fairfield Local Planning Panel. Amelia was founding co-chair of the PIA NSW Women in Planning Network, leading the development of Australia’s first national gender equity policy for the planning profession. She has served on numerous bodies focused on inclusion and diversity at UNSW, including as Deputy Academic Lead of the Athena Swan Self-Assessment Team, co-chair of the UNSW Women in Research Network, and chair of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee in Law.

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. She 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 has three young children and has worked part time throughout her academic career.

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

Australian Legal Research Awards, Honourable mention (book award), 2022

Socio Legal Studies Association (UK), History and Theory Prize, shortlisted, 2022

Centre for Canadian Architecture, Visting Fellowship, 2020 (not taken due to Covid)

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

Alice Palithorpe, PhD, climate-related internal displacement in Australia (with Jane McAdam)

Tomas Alcaron, PhD, lawyers and the Australian climate movement (with Marc de Leeuw and Bronwen Morgan)

Jodie Hampson, PhD, co-operative platform economies (with Bronwen Morgan and Selena Griffith)

Oxana Wolfson, PhD, governance of water infrastructure (with Fleur Johns and Weihuan Zhou)

Yutong Wang, MPH, food delivery cycling and the media (external supervisor for the University of Sydney, with James Kite). Completed 2021.

Costa Avgoustinos, PhD, climate change and constitutional law (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