Associate Professor Amelia Thorpe

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

Amelia Thorpe is Associate Professor in Law at UNSW, working in the areas of planning, property and local government law, legal geography and urban studies. Her research centres on frameworks for decision-making in contemporary cities – who gets to have a say, and how – and the ways in which those frameworks might contribute to social and environmental justice. Amelia’s approach is interdisciplinary, drawing on degrees in Architecture and City Policy as well as Law, and professional experience in public interest environmental law and in planning and urban development.

In Owning the Street: The Everyday Life of Property (MIT Press, 2020), Amelia examines how local, personal, and material understandings about belonging, ownership, and agency intersect with law to shape the city. Amelia's work is published in Australian and international journals including Journal of Law & Society, Law & Society Review, Social & Legal StudiesPlanning Theory & Practice and Urban Studies and she serves on the editorial boards of Australian Planner and Environmental & Planning Law Journal. Some of Amelia’s publications can be downloaded for free from SSRN: 

Amelia 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. Amelia led the EDO’s legal outreach programs, including indigenous and community engagement in NSW and a capacity-building program for environmental law in the Pacific region, working primarily on climate change at national and international levels.

Before Law Amelia studied Architecture and City Policy, and worked for the planning, transport and housing departments in Western Australia. This included the award-winning TravelSmart and Liveable Neighbourhoods programs, as well as New Metro Rail, then the largest infrastructure project ever undertaken 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 her to study law. Amelia completed law degrees at the University of Oxford and at Harvard Law School and, later, a PhD at ANU.

Amelia remains actively involved in the practice of planning, serving as community representative on the City of Sydney Local Planning Panel, co-director of Urbanistas Sydney and co-chair of the PIA NSW Women in Planning Network (which she co-founded in 2020), and a member of the board of Shelter NSW. Amelia has also served on numerous bodies focused on inclusion and diversity at UNSW, including as co-chair of the UNSW Women in Research Network and chair of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee in Law.

Amelia has three young children and works part time.

Profile Picture

Thorpe A, 2020, Owning the Street: The Everyday Life of Property, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA,

Journal articles

Morgan B; Thorpe A; Cooper D, 2021, 'The hopeful edges of power: Radical governance and acting ‘as if’', Griffith Review, vol. 73, pp. 233 - 245

Thorpe A, 2021, 'Reclaiming the Streets? Possibilities for Post-Pandemic Public Space', Town Planning Review, vol. 92,

Thorpe A, 2021, 'Pop-up Property: Enacting ownership from San Francisco to Sydney', Law and Society Review, vol. 52, pp. 740 - 772,

Thorpe A, 2020, 'Regulatory Gentrification: Documents, displacement and the loss of low-income housing', Urban Studies, pp. 1 - 17,

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

Thorpe A, 2018, '"This Land is Yours": Ownership and Agency in the Sharing City', Journal of Law and Society, vol. 45, pp. 99 - 115,

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, 'Hegel's Hipsters: Claiming Ownership in the Contemporary City', SOCIAL & LEGAL STUDIES, vol. 27, pp. 25 - 48,

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

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

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

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

Thorpe AT, 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, 'Community-based Monitoring, Reporting and Verification of REDD Projects', Carbon and Climate Law Review, vol. 3, pp. 303

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

Book Chapters

Flynn A; Thorpe A, 2021, 'Pandemic pop-ups and the performance of legality', in Doucet B; van Melik R; Filion P (ed.), Global Reflections on Covid-19 and Urban Inequalities, Bristol University Press, Bristol,

Thorpe AL, 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, 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


Lee A; McCabe G; Thorpe A; Gibbs R; Bondfield R, 2021, Measuring and Evaluating Extended Outdoor Dining, Sydney

Thorpe A; McCabe A; Johnson C; Hobbs E; Bailey M; Hartigan M, 2021, Developing a national gender equity policy for the planning profession: A discussion paper, Planning Institute of Australia,

McCabe A; Grech E; Thorpe A, 2020, Post Approval Social Impact Management Review: Discussion Paper

Reinmuth G; Crabtree L; Jackson B; Lee A; Perry N; Scheule H; Thorpe A, 2020, Creating the City We Want: Tackling the Barriers to Housing Diversity in NSW, Sydney

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

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

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

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 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,


Conference Papers

Thorpe AL; Stickells L, 2014, 'Beyond Protest: Activism and participation in 1970s Sydney', in Gjerde M; Petrovic E (ed.), 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 February 2014 - 02 February 2014

Centre for Canadian Architecture, Research Fellowship, 2020

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

'Improving Safety for Bicycle Delivery Cyclists', Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications, Road Safety Innovation Fund Round 2, 2021-2023 (with Soufiane Boufous and Marilyn Johnson), $227,450

‘Electric Vehicle and Grid - Assessment Opportunity’, Reliable, Affordable, Clean Energy for 2030 Collaborative Research Centre, 2020 (with R Dargaville, D Kuch, l Meegahapola, L McIntosh, P Newman, P Paevere, CSIRO and 16 industry partners) $526,000

'Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure – Risks and Opportunities in Urban and Electricity System Planning' Digital Grid Futures Institute, 2020, $25,000 (with Declan Kuch and Nofar Sheffi)

‘Creating the City we Want: Tackling the Barriers to Housing Diversity in NSW’, Collaborative Research Project, Landcom University Roundtable, 2018-2020, $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, socio-legal studies, cities, infrastructure, transport, planning law, legal geography

Thorpe A; Green J, 2021, Owning the Street,

Thorpe A; Kuch D; Adams S, 2021, On an electric car road trip around NSW, we found range anxiety (and the need for more chargers) is real,

Thorpe A, 2020, Reclaiming the streets? We all can have a say in the ‘new normal’ after coronavirus,

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

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

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

Thorpe A, 2015, Tiny Houses, Big Queues,

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



Thought leadership|12 Oct 2020
Koalafications: what new environmental laws mean for the survival of the species
The new State Environmental Planning Policy has caused quite a stir politically, but a UNSW Law academic says not much is changing.
Opinion|Thought leadership|05 May 2020
Reclaiming the streets? We all can have a say in the 'new normal' after coronavirus
COVID-19 has upturned uses of public spaces that we took for granted. Will shifts in the regulation of these spaces lead to a change in thinking about who “owns” the city?
Thought leadership|23 Apr 2020
Australian health and transport experts call for space for safer walking and cycling
We need urgent measures to support safe walking, cycling and social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, Australian experts say.
Opinion|01 Apr 2019
Labor pledges $14m funding boost to Environmental Defenders Offices – what do these services do?
For more than 30 years, Environmental Defenders Offices around the country have worked to help people take legal action on environmental issues. They've notched some big wins along the way.
07 Dec 2017
People love parklets, and businesses can help make them happen
OPINION: Amelia Thorpe, The Conversation, 6 December 2017.
29 Jun 2017
The homeless have no choice but to live life in public
OPINION: Amelia Thorpe, The Sydney Morning Herald, 29 June 2017.The recent forced removal of homeless people from a camp in central Sydney raises some difficult questions, not least being whether it is reasonable for the bankers, lawyers and politicians of Martin Place to be protected from the disturbing sight of the homeless.

Teaching Activity

Amelia's 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)

Land and Environment Court Clinic (LAWS3302)

Land Law (LAWS2383)

Development and Planning Law (LAWS8071)

Food Law (LAWS3216)

Principles of Private Law (LAWS1150)

Climate Law (LAWS8066)