Repairing our relationship with rivers: the role of law, with Dr Erin O’Donnell – Earth Laws Webinar Series

May 4, 2023
1:00 pm - 2:00 pm (AEST)
Online (via Zoom)

Since 2017, rivers around the world have experienced a profound transformation in law: they have become legal persons and/or living entities. This alchemical transfiguration from legal object to legal subject renders the river uniquely visible, and legible, to the law in ways it has not been before, and often brings with it new legal rights and powers.

In this webinar, we examine the implications for water law, including the power of law as a mode of repair, to restore our relationship with rivers. We will consider leading international examples, as well as Australia’s first and so far only river to be recognised as a living entity in settler state law, the Birrarung (Yarra River).


Dr Erin O’Donnell is a Senior Lecturer and ARC Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne Law School. Erin is recognized internationally for her research into the ground-breaking new field of legal rights for rivers. Her work explores the challenges and opportunities these new rights create for protecting the multiple social, cultural and natural values of rivers. Since 2018, Erin has been a member of the Birrarung Council, the voice of the Birrarung (Yarra River) in Melbourne.


Dr Michelle Maloney (BA/LLB(Hons),PhD) is Co-Founder and National Convenor of the Australian Earth Laws Alliance (AELA), Adjunct Senior Fellow, Law Futures Centre, Griffith University; and Director of the New Economy Network Australia (NENA) and Future Dreaming AustraliaMichelle’s work focuses on creating systems change (across law, economics, education and ethics) to shift industrialised societies towards regenerative, Earth-centred governance.


The Australian Earth Laws Alliance (AELA) is a national not-for-profit organisation working to increase the understanding and practical implementation of Earth-centred governance, with a focus on law, economics, education, ethics and the arts.

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