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Dr Amy Maguire


Newcastle Law School

Inequality in land of the not so 'fair go'

Citing self-determination as a step in shifting Indigenous disadvantage, Dr Amy Maguire is seeking to put the right back on the radar in international law and everyday conversations about contemporary colonialism.

Amy Maguire 

There's a laundry list of things Australians are good at – and quite openly proud of. We're a nation of elite sportspeople, proud patriots, and at times, overindulgent larrikins, but Dr Maguire's research shows we've long tended to verge on the side of heedless when it comes to addressing Indigenous peoples' experiences in post-settlement Australia. While she admits other countries have similarly breached treaties and put up cultural barriers, the human rights scholar duly points out most have sought to learn from their mistakes.

'The past few decades since movements began towards the recognition of native title have seen some attempts to recapture an awareness of what we could and should have done differently post-colonisation,' she concedes.

'But it's proving difficult to do so after 200 years of dispossession and subsequent discrimination.'

At the same time acknowledging a 'clash' between the rights of Indigenous peoples to self-determination and the legal system imported to Australia by colonisers, Maguire is working to find ways to empower claimants to assert themselves in domestic and international legal forums. The enterprising researcher is also looking to expand our understanding of the colonial experiences of these claimants, believing it too is key in making amends for past wrongdoings.

'Colonisation is a jarring act because our legal system has assumed that from that moment preexisting legal systems were supplanted or erased,' she advises.

'We then had centuries where we acted as though there was nothing here before us.'

'Now these peoples do not have the capacity to make their claims according to Aboriginal sources of sovereignty, which means they have to reframe them to fit within our perceptions of what an appropriate legal claim should look like.'

New attitudes to old problems

Maguire explored these inadequacies during her PhD candidature. She undertook a combination of empirical and doctrinal research throughout the four-year investigation, identifying a need to revive an awareness of the colonial aspect of the right to self-determination.

'It has been marginalised for a while in international law,' she discloses.  

'Some scholars believe there isn't much room anymore for further fracturing of borders or further creation of new states and territories.'

'So if Indigenous peoples want to claim self-determination now they really need to think about how they can do that within existing state structures, which is acceptable to some peoples and not to others.'

Maguire conducted a number of interviews with Aboriginal Australians and Irish Nationalists in Northern Ireland on their experiences of colonialism in settler societies, taking an atypical, socio-legal approach to demonstrate the 'highly contextualised' nature of self-determination in institutional environments. Though the circumstances of the two minority groups are substantially different, Maguire believes the comparison is important in showing that colonialism – and self-determination's role in decolonisation – has not been adequately recognised at either domestic or international levels.

'Both spoke of difficulties in influencing decision-making through representative governance and other means,' she explains.

'Some Indigenous respondents in Australia also reported that they have limited domain over their own culture due to the physical dispossession of artefacts to Britain by colonisers.'

'Irish Nationalists felt a diminished capacity to express their culture too, in part because of the refusal of British unionist-dominated local government to protect and support the Irish language.'

Ultimately concluding these claimants of self-determination are struggling to make themselves heard in political and legal arenas, Maguire decided to adapt Robert McCorquodale's human rights proposal in search of a way forward.  

'The first pillar of my doctoral research looks at evidence for colonial experiences and justifications for trying to find self-determination, and the second pillar accounts for the aspirations and interests of all societies involved,' she conveys.

'We need both to ensure the rights of one group don't trump the rights of another.'

All or nothing

Maguire has developed a number of publications out of this thesis, seeking to 'make the work current' by bringing her new ideas and understandings into more contemporary contexts. She's drawn on the first pillar's definition of decolonisation to publish an overview of both case studies in the Griffith Law Review, and drawn on the human rights approach to self-determination to criticise Australia's limited adherence to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

'It's a non-binding statement of international law that we seem to have agreed to only in theory,' she clarifies.

'We've committed ourselves at least in aspiration to this type of document but our actions are yet to follow through.'

'I'm arguing there isn't much point to this though – either we say we are not going to buy into it, or we say yes and make ourselves accountable to the Declaration by attending to the requirements of self-determination.'

No peace without justice

More recently, Maguire has used data from her thesis to pen a piece on the relationship between law and violence. Published by the Seattle Journal of Social Justice in 2014, Maguire's exploration of the peace process in Ireland will consider how we can both promote justice and maintain peace in post-war societies.

'It's a complicated setting in Northern Ireland as there is still so much disagreement about past struggles and how we should go about dealing with them,' she reveals.

'Some commentators have argued that people need to abandon hope for justice and just commit themselves to peace, but this will mean making a lot of compromises.'

Firmly opposed to this school of thought, Maguire believes we can aim for both. Again pointing to self-determination as an important first step in resolving these disputes, she is exploring the Good Friday Agreement and ways to harness it's potential to promote both justice and peace in the peacebuilding process. 

Musings for the masses

In another redirection of the thesis, Maguire is letting ideas develop in the digital domain. With recent articles on The Conversation exploring a 'crimes against humanity' case launched against the Australian government for their treatment of asylum seekers, as well as the costs and benefits of a Northern Ireland border poll, she is looking to contribute to discussions of human rights issues at multiple levels.

'I've found it really enriching as it's allowed me to respond to things as they're happening and see what the feeling is in different communities,' she declares.

'The immediate feedback is also great to contest ideas.'

Similarly hoping to link her longer-term projects with these shorter-term non-traditional publications, Maguire's ongoing research and evaluation efforts are intended to 'get people talking.'

'I find that academic discourse, particularly in law, can be quite text-based and confined to a single disciplinary perspective,' she admits.

'But we can shift the way we do things and encourage law reform by including a human aspect in legal scholarship.'

Inequality in land of the not so 'fair go'

Dr Amy Maguire's research relates to the collective human right to self-determination, with particular focus on Indigenous peopl

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Career Summary


I graduated from Newcastle Law School in 2004, and my PhD was awarded in 2011. Since 2005, I have been engaged in research relating to the collective human right to self-determination, with particular focus on Indigenous peoples in Australia and Irish nationalists in the North of Ireland. My doctoral research explores the self-determination claims of peoples who live a contemporary colonial experience, and I argue that the right of self-determination retains a mission of decolonisation in the twenty-first century. I also conduct research in the fields in public international law, human rights (particularly self-determination), law and society, women's rights, refugee rights, Indigenous legal issues, Indigenisation of curriculum and teaching and learning in law.

I have published in relation to self-determination, Indigenous land rights, and women's security. In 2014, I am working on articles relating to the Indigenisation of curricula, self-determination in the context of peace and violence, accountability under international law and the rights of Indigenous peoples, and the use of qualitative socio-legal research in international law.

Since 2013, I have served as undergraduate program convenor in Newcastle Law School, working alongside excellent colleagues to ensure the quality and continuous improvement of our innovative and experiential degree programs. My teaching specialities are Public International Law, Indigenous Peoples, Issues and the Law, Human Rights and Legal Theory.

Research Expertise
My doctoral research relates to the collective human right of self-determination in international law. I have taken a novel approach to self-determination, exploring the right in the context of contemporary, anti-colonial claims. Contemporary claimant groups able to demonstrate a colonial experience include Indigenous peoples in Australia and Irish nationalists in the North of Ireland. I argue that this colonial experience must be addressed in order that contemporary self-determination claims may be dealt with honestly and fairly. Further, a new approach to self-determination claims, based on the human rights framework as a whole, is required. I am also currently collaborating with my colleague Dr Tamara Young on research relating to the Indigenisation of curricula in law and business schools. This research has potential to translate to a range of jurisdictions and organisations concerned with curricular justice and educating students for social justice, as well as improving higher education outcomes for Indigenous students. Previous research collaborations have related to the effectiveness of Indigenous Land Use Agreements as a means of promoting the realisation of land rights for Indigenous peoples, and the role of international law in protecting and promoting women's security in post-conflict societies. I have supervised three students in the completion of their Honours dissertations in Law: Ruth Hudson, 'Trafficked, Traded, Turned Away: A Critical Evaluation of Australian Law in Relation to Trafficked Women' (2008) Charlotte Buckton, 'Evading the Rising Tide: Development of an International Instrument to Protect Peoples Displaced by Climate Change' (2011) James Willoughby, 'The Hart-Fuller debate lacks conflict' (2013).

Teaching Expertise
Public International Law Indigenous Peoples, Issues and the Law Human Rights Legal Theory.

Administrative Expertise
Undergraduate Program Convenor, Newcastle Law School Founding convenor of the Newcastle Law School Staff Research Network Founder and former co-chair of the Faculty of Business and Law Women's Network Founder and convenor of an international Collaborative Research Network on collective human rights Coordinator of the Newcastle Law School submissions project to the National Human Rights Consultation (2008-9) Organiser of the Newcastle Bill of Rights Symposium (2008).

Alongside my colleague Dr Tamara Young, I am engaged in collaborative research relating to the Indigenisation of curricula in Law and Business schools. I also maintain an international Collaborative Research Network, with a focus on collective human rights.


  • PhD (Law), University of Newcastle
  • Bachelor of Arts, University of Newcastle
  • Bachelor of Laws (Honours), University of Newcastle


  • Colonialism and international law
  • Human rights
  • Indigenisation
  • Indigenous Peoples, Issues and the Law
  • Indigenous legal issues
  • Legal Theory
  • Public International Law
  • Self-determination

Fields of Research

Code Description Percentage
180114 Human Rights Law 50
180116 International Law (excl. International Trade Law) 20
180119 Law and Society 30

Professional Experience

UON Appointment

Title Organisation / Department
Lecturer University of Newcastle
Newcastle Law School

Academic appointment

Dates Title Organisation / Department
1/04/2013 -  Undergraduate Program Convenor Newcastle Law School
1/06/2011 -  Co-Chair Faculty of Business and Law Academic Women's Network
1/01/2008 -  Membership - International Law Association International Law Association
1/01/2008 -  Membership - Australian and New Zealand Society of International Law Australian and New Zealand Society of International Law
1/01/2007 -  Membership - Law and Society Association of Australian and New Zealand Law and Society Association of Australian and New Zealand
1/01/2006 -  Membership - Collaborative Research Network on collective human rights Collaborative Research Network on collective human rights


Research Award

Year Award
2010 Faculty of Business and Law Research Higher Degree Best Publication Award
University of Newcastle


For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.

Chapter (1 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2009 Maguire AM, ''Security starts with the law': The role of international law in the protection of women's security post-conflict', The Role of International Law in Rebuilding Societies After Conflict: Great Expectations, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 218-243 (2009) [B1]
DOI 10.1017/CBO9780511576478.012

Journal article (6 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2015 Maguire AM, 'Self-determination, Justice, and a 'Peace Process': Irish Nationalism, the Contemporary Colonial Experience and the Good Friday Agreement', Seattle Journal for Social Justice, 13 537-581 (2015)
2013 Maguire AM, 'Contemporary Anti-colonial Self-determination Claims and the Decolonisation of International Law', Griffith Law Review, 22 238-268 (2013) [C1]
2010 Howard-Wagner D, Maguire AM, ''The Holy Grail' or 'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly'?: A qualitative exploration of the ILUAs agreement-making process and the relationship between ILUAs and native title', Australian Indigenous Law Review, 14 71-85 (2010) [C1]
2008 Maguire AM, 'Law protecting rights: Restoring the law of self-determination in the neo-classical world', Law Text Culture, 12 12-39 (2008) [C1]
2006 Hamber B, Hillyard P, Maguire AM, McWilliams M, Robinson G, Russell D, Ward M, 'Discourses in transition: Re-imaging women's security', International Relations, 20 487-502 (2006) [C1]
DOI 10.1177/0047117806069410
2006 Maguire AM, 'Murdering myths: The story behind the death penalty (Book review)', British Journal of Criminology, 46 532-534 (2006) [C3]
Show 3 more journal articles

Grants and Funding


Number of grants 1
Total funding $24,920

Click on a grant title below to expand the full details for that specific grant.

20111 grants / $24,920

The Right to Self-Determination in International Law: A study of the colonial experiences of Irish nationalists and Indigenous peoples in Australia$24,920

Funding body: University of Newcastle

Funding body University of Newcastle
Project Team Doctor Amy Maguire
Scheme Equity Research Fellowship
Role Lead
Funding Start 2011
Funding Finish 2011
GNo G1000910
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE

Research Supervision

Number of supervisions


Total current UON EFTSL


Current Supervision

Commenced Level of Study Research Title / Program / Supervisor Type
2015 PhD Climate Change Adaptation in the Pacific Small Island Developing States: Institutional Design for Common but Differentiated Responsibility and Human Rights
Political Science, Faculty of Business and Law, The University of Newcastle
2013 PhD An Analysis of the Failed West Papua De-colonisation Process: National Narrative versus the Rights of a Non-self-governing Territory
Political Science, Faculty of Business and Law, The University of Newcastle
2013 PhD The Potential of the ‘No-Harm’ Rule to Prevent Transboundary Harm and Harm to the Global Atmospheric Commons from SRM Geoengineering
Law, University of Tasmania


Australia can do better on Asian boat crisis than ‘nope, nope, nope’

May 29, 2015

Dr Amy Maguire of the Newcastle Law School discusses Australia's response to the Rohingya refugee crisis

Is Australia guilty of crimes against humanity?

October 27, 2014

Dr Amy Maguire examines if the International Criminal Court could prosecute Australia for crimes against humanity?

A referendum in Northern Ireland could mean more than just Yes or No

October 9, 2014

Dr Amy Maguire discusses renewed calls for Northern Ireland to leave the UK in The Conversation

Newcastle Law School panel accepted at prestigious conference

September 22, 2014

Newcastle Law School-proposed panel accepted at the prestigious International Studies Association conference

Is Australia a Responsible International Citizen?

August 20, 2014

Newcastle Law School academic Dr Amy Maguire discusses Australia's current asylum seeker policy

High Court of Australia

Australia’s global reputation at stake in High Court asylum case

July 22, 2014

Dr Amy Maguire comments on Sri Lankan asylum seekers' case.

Dr Amy Maguire


Newcastle Law School
Faculty of Business and Law

Contact Details

Phone (02) 4921 5374


Room MC159c
Building McMullin Building
Location Callaghan
University Drive
Callaghan, NSW 2308