Associate Professor Amelia Thorpe

BEnvDes BArch (Hons) UWA, BPolSt (City Policy) (Hons) Murdoch, BA (Jurisprudence) (Hons) Oxford, LLM, Harvard, PhD, ANU

I am currently Research Director (Impact and Engagement) and Associate Professor in Law. I am also Chair of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee in Law, and co-Chair of the UNSW Women In Research Network (WiRN).

My research centres on the governance of cities, ranging from small scale, informal urban interventions to institutional frameworks for decision-making in planning and development. My approach is interdisciplinary, drawing on degrees in Architecture and City Policy as well as Law, and professional experience working on planning, housing and major infrastructure projects. I am currently working on three main research projects: one on equity and diversity on planning and design review panels across Australia; one on DIY urban infrastructure in Australia and North America; and one on housing diversity in Sydney.

Some of my publications can be downloaded for free from SSRN: 

I 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. At the EDO I led a capacity-building program for environmental law in the Pacific region, working primarily on climate change at national and international levels.

Before Law I studied Architecture and City Policy, and worked for the planning, transport and housing departments in Western Australia. I worked on projects including the award winning TravelSmart and Liveable Neighbourhoods programs, as well as New Metro Rail, then the largest infrastructure project ever undertake 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 me to study law. I completed degrees at the University of Oxford and at Harvard Law School and, later, a PhD at ANU. I remain actively involved in the practice of planning, and am currently community representative on the City of Sydney Local Planning Panel.

I have three young children and work part time.

Profile Picture
Book Chapters

Thorpe A, 2017, 'Between Rights in the City and the Right to the City: Heritage, Character and Public Participation in Urban Planning', in Durbach A; Lixinski L (ed.), HERITAGE, CULTURE AND RIGHTS: CHALLENGING LEGAL DISCOURSES, HART PUBL, Univ New South Wales, Sydney, AUSTRALIA, pp. 121 - 147,

Thorpe AL; Stickells L; Moore T, 2017, 'Pop-up justice? Reflecting on relationships in the temporary city', in Hennebury J (ed.), Transience and Permanence in Urban Development, Wiley, pp. 151 - 169,

Thorpe AL, 2016, 'Land Use Planning', in The Environmental Law Handbook - Planning and Land Use in New South Wales, edn. 6th, Thomson Reuters

Conference Papers

Thorpe AL; Stickells L, 2014, 'Beyond Protest: Activism and participation in 1970s Sydney', in Gjerde M; Petrovic E (eds.), UHPH_14: Landscapes and Ecologies of Urban and Planning History Proceedings of the 12th Australasian Urban History/Planning History Conference, Australasian Urban History/Planning History Group and Victoria University of Wellington, Victoria University of Wellington, NZ, pp. 797 - 814, presented at 12th Australasian Urban History/Planning History Conference, Victoria University of Wellington, NZ, 02 - 02 February 2014

Journal articles

Morgan B; Thorpe A, 2018, 'Introduction: Law for a new economy: Enterprise, sharing, regulation', Journal of Law and Society, vol. 45, pp. 1 - 9,

Thorpe A, 2018, 'Pop-Up Property: Enacting Ownership from San Francisco to Sydney', LAW & SOCIETY REVIEW, vol. 52, pp. 740 - 772,

Thorpe A, 2018, '"This Land is Yours': Ownership and Agency in the Sharing City', JOURNAL OF LAW AND SOCIETY, vol. 45, pp. 99 - 115,

Thorpe A, 2018, 'Hegel’s Hipsters', Social & Legal Studies, vol. 27, pp. 25 - 48,

Thorpe A, 2018, 'The case for parklets', Australian Local Government Yearbook, pp. 68 - 70

Thorpe A, 2017, 'Rethinking Participation, Rethinking Planning', Planning Theory & Practice, vol. 18, pp. 566 - 582,

Thorpe AL, 2013, 'Public participation in planning: Lessons from the green bans', Environmental and Planning Law Journal, vol. 30, pp. 93 - 105

Thorpe AL; Hart MA, 2013, 'Changing Climates, Changing Cities? Planning Reform and Urban Sustainability in New South Wales', The Australasian Journal of Natural Resources Law and Policy, vol. 16, pp. 133 - 156,;dn=204711638848451;res=IELHSS

Thorpe AL, 2013, 'Planning with the Public? Participation in the reform of the NSW planning system', Alternative Law Journal, pp. 272 - 272

Thorpe AL, 2012, 'Country Profile: Australia', Carbon and Climate Law Review, pp. 261 - 261

Thorpe A, 2012, 'Too little, too soon? An assessment of Australian carbon capture and storage legislation against the new standards set for the Clean Development Mechanism', Climate Law, vol. 3, pp. 139 - 163,

Thorpe AL; Graham K, 2009, 'Green Buildings: Are codes, standards and targets sufficient drivers of sustainability in NSW?', Environmental and Planning Law Journal, vol. 26, pp. 486 - 497

Thorpe AL; Graham K, 2009, 'Community-based Monitoring, Reporting and Verification of REDD Projects', Carbon and Climate Law Review, vol. 3, pp. 303


Thorpe A, 2019, Labor pledges $14m funding boost to Environmental Defenders Offices – what do these services do?,

Thorpe A, 2018, How to write a planning submission,

Thorpe A, 2017, People love parklets, and businesses can help make them happen,

Thorpe A, 2017, The homeless have no choice but to live life in public,

Thorpe A, 2017, Bush democracy wins out but council mergers continue in Sydney,

Thorpe A, 2016, Why parking spaces are being turned into pop-up parks,

Thorpe A, 2016, A Day for Turning Parking Spaces into Pop-up Parks,

Thorpe A, 2015, Tiny Houses, Big Queues,

Thorpe A, 2014, The Block shows up limitations in definition of ownership,


Thorpe AL, 2017, Submission to the NSW Government on the 'Planning legislation updates 2017

Thorpe A; Holley C, 2016, Submission to the NSW Government on 'Revised Consultative Committee Guidelines for State Significant Projects'

Thorpe AL; Hart M, 2014, Submission to the NSW Government on the 'BASIX Target Review'

Thorpe AL, 2014, Submission to the Productivity Commission on the 'Access to Justice Arrangements Draft Report'

Thorpe AL, 2013, Submission to the NSW Government on the 'New Planning System for NSW White Paper, Planning Bill 2013 and Planning (Administration) Bill 2013'

Thorpe AL, 2013, Submission to the Productivity Commission on the 'Major Project Development Assessment Processes Issues Paper'

Thorpe A; Holley C; Sherry C, 2012, Submission to the NSW Government on the New Planning System for NSW Green Paper, Australia

Thorpe AL, 2011, Staying on Track: Tackling Corruption Risks in Climate Change, United Nations Development Program,

UNSW Law Research Fellowship, 2018

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

‘Creating the City we Want: Tackling the Barriers to Housing Diversity in NSW’, Collaborative Research Project, Landcom University Roundtable, 2018, $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)

UNSW Law Research Fellowship, 2018

‘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

urban governance, local government and planning law, public participation, DIY urbanism, gender and diversity in planning, legal geography, socio-legal studies

Currently Teaching

My 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)

Development and Planning Law (LAWS8071)

Land and Environment Court Clinic (LAWS3302)

Climate Law (LAWS8066)