Associate Professor Sean Brennan

Sean Brennan
Director, Indigenous Legal Issues Project, Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law and Associate Professor, UNSW Law.


Contact details:
Email:, Phone: 61 2 9385 2334, Website: Faculty of Law, UNSW.

After working as a judge's associate in the Federal Court, with various Aboriginal and other community organisations and in the Commonwealth Parliament’s research service, Sean joined UNSW Law in May 2002. Between 2002 and 2005 he was Director of the Treaty Project at the Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law, an ARC-funded project investigating the public law implications of a treaty or treaty-like agreements between Indigenous peoples and Australian governments. At the conclusion of that project he co-authored, with George Williams, Larissa Behrendt and Lisa Strelein, the book Treaty (Federation Press, 2005). Sean continued his association with the Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law thereafter as the Director of the Indigenous Legal Issues Project and he will commence as the Centre’s Director in March 2014.

Sean teaches, writes and researches mainly in the areas of constitutional law, native title, land rights and other Indigenous legal issues. He is a co-author of Indigenous Legal Issues: Commentary and Materials (Thomson Reuters, 4th ed, 2009) and Blackshield and Williams Australian Constitutional Law and Theory (Federation Press, 6th ed, 2014) as well as numerous chapters, journal articles and submissions mainly dealing with the intersection of public law and Indigenous issues. Since 1994 he has worked with a variety of Aboriginal organisations, mainly in Queensland and the Northern Territory.

Current research projects
Issues in Australian native title law

Selected publications


Blackshield and Williams Australian Constitutional Law and Theory: Commentary and Materials (Federation Press, 6th ed, 2014) (with George Williams and Andrew Lynch)

Indigenous Legal Issues: Commentary and Materials (4th ed, Thomson Reuters, 2009) (with Heather McRae, Garth Nettheim, Thalia Anthony, Laura Beacroft, Megan Davis and Terri Janke).

Treaty (Federation Press, 2005) (with Larissa Behrendt, Lisa Strelein and George Williams).

Book Chapters

'The Disregard for Legal Protections of Aboriginal Land Rights in Early South Australia' in Shaun Berg (ed), Coming to Terms: Aboriginal Title in South Australia (Wakefield Press, 2010).

'Whitlam and the Value of Law in Indigenous Affairs: Lessons for the Contemporary Debate on Reconciliation and a Treaty?' in Jenny Hocking and Colleen Lewis (eds), It's Time Again. Whitlam and Modern Labor (Circa, 2003).

Refereed Journal Articles

'Section 51(xxxi) and the Acquisition of Property under Commonwealth-State Arrangements: The Relevance to Native Title Extinguishment on Just Terms' (2011) 15 Australian Indigenous Law Review 74-86.

‘Constitutional Reform and its Relationship to Land Justice’, Land, Rights, Laws: Issues of Native Title, Volume 5 Issues Paper No 2, October 2011, 1-16.

'Statutory Interpretation and Indigenous Property Rights' (2010) 21 Public Law Review 239-262.

'Territory Exceptionalism and Indigenous Property Holders: Federalism, Rights Protection and the Australian Constitution' (2010) 2 City University of Hong Kong Law Review 117-135.

‘The Northern Territory Intervention and Just Terms for the Acquisition of Property' (2009) 33 Melbourne University Law Review 957

'Wet or Dry, It’s Aboriginal Land: The Blue Mud Bay Decision on the Intertidal Zone’ (2008) 7(7) Indigenous Law Bulletin 6.

‘Compulsory acquisition of native title land for private use by third parties’ (2008) 19 Public Law Review 179.

‘Economic Development and Land Council Power: Modernising the Land Rights Act or Same Old Same Old?’ (2006) 10 Australian Indigenous Law Reporter 1.

‘“Sovereignty” and Treaty-Making between Indigenous Peoples and Australian Governments’ (2004) 26 Sydney Law Review 307 (with George Williams and Brenda Gunn).

‘Native Title and the “Acquisition of Property” under the Australian Constitution’ (2004) 28 Melbourne University Law Review 28.

‘Native Title in the High Court of Australia a decade after Mabo’ (2003) 14 Public Law Review 209.

‘Rights-based Reconciliation Needs Renewed Action from Canberra’ (2003) 28 Alternative Law Journal 122 (with George Williams and Vanessa Bosnjak).

Submissions and Reports

Submission to Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee Inquiry into the Low Aromatic Fuel Bill 2012, 24 July 2012.

Submission to Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians, 30 September 2011.

Submission to House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs Inquiry into the High Level of Involvement of Indigenous Juveniles and Young Adults in the Criminal Justice System, 28 May 2010.

Submission to the National Human Rights Consultation Committee on Indigenous legal issues, 15 June 2009.

Submission to Senate Community Affairs Reference Committee Inquiry into Petrol Sniffing and Substance Abuse in Central Australia, 27 October 2008 (with Jonathan Dillon).

Submission to the Northern Territory Emergency Response Review Board on NT Intervention Measures, 22 August 2008.

Submission and Supplementary Submission to Senate Legal and Consitutional Affairs Legislation Committee Inquiry into the Northern Territory National Emergency Response Bill 2007 & Related Bills, 9/10 August 2007 (with Talia Epstein and Edwina MacDonald).

Submission to Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee Inquiry into Stolen Wages (5 October 2006) (with Zoe Craven and the Indigenous Law Centre).

Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Bill 2006: Report on Parliamentary Process, September 2006 (with Allison Rickett).

Submission to Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee Inquiry into Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Bill 2006, 17 July 2006.

‘Eventually they get it all...’: Government Management of Aboriginal Trust Money in New South Wales (Indigenous Law Centre, 2006) (with Zoe Craven).


Stay Connected