Biographical Notes:

After graduating from ANU in 1989 and working as a Federal Court associate and for Inner City Legal Centre, Sean spent several years working for Aboriginal organisations, mainly in legal policy and research. With assistance from the Lionel Murphy Foundation, he undertook a Masters in Law at the Australian National University in 1997, with a focus on native title and constitutional law. This built on his earlier experience as a lawyer for Cape York Land Council, and both the National (NIWG) and Queensland (QIWG) Indigenous Working Groups. He spent three years with the research service in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library before joining the Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law at the UNSW Law Faculty, as Director of its Treaty Project in 2002. In 2005 Sean joined the full-time teaching staff of the Faculty. He continues as Director of the Indigenous Legal Issues Project at the Centre contributing to public debates through submissions and media commentary, as well as teaching, researching and publishing in the areas of Indigenous legal issues and constitutional law. In 2006 he spent several months with Central Land Council in Alice Springs and has worked with other organisations in recent years, including the Aurora Project on professional development programs for Native Title Representative Body staff.

Major Publications:


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

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, 2009).

‘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), 138-165.

Selected Articles

‘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).


‘Reconciliation in Australia: the Relationship between Indigenous Peoples and the Wider Community’ (2004) 11 Brown Journal of World Affairs 149.


‘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.

Selected Submissions

Submission to National Human Rights Consultation Committee on Indigenous Legal Issues, 15 June 2009.


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


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


Submissions to Senate Legal and Constitutional 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 for the Indigenous Law Centre).


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