Professor Megan Davis

Professor Megan Davis is Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous UNSW and a Professor of Law, UNSW Law. Professor Davis was elected by the UN Human Rights Council to UNEMRIP in 2017. Professor Davis currently serves as a United Nations expert with the UN Human Rights Council's Expert Mechanism on the rights of Indigenous peoples based in UN Geneva. Megan is an Acting Commissioner of the NSW Land and Environment Court. Professor Davis is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Social Sciences. She is a member of the NSW Sentencing Council and an Australian Rugby League Commissioner. Professor Davis was Director of the Indigenous Law Centre, UNSW Law from 2006-2016.

Professor Davis is formerly Chair and expert member of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (2011-2016). As UNPFII expert she was the focal point for UN Women and UN AIDS. During this period of UN service, Megan was the Rapporteur of the UN EGM on an Optional Protocol to the UNDRIP in 2015, the Rapporteur of the UN EGM on Combating violence against Indigenous women and girls in 2011 and the UN Rapporteur for the International EGM on Indigenous Youth in 2012. Megan has extensive experience as an international lawyer at the UN and participated in the drafting of the UNDRIP from 1999-2004 and is a former UN Fellow of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva.

Professor Davis is a constitutional lawyer who researches in public law and public international law. Her current research focuses on constitutional design, democratic theory and Indigenous peoples. Professor Davis has been the leading constitutional lawyer working on Indigenous constitutional reform since 2011. In 2015 she was appointed by the Prime Minister to the Referendum Council and designed the deliberative constitutional dialogue process the Council undertook. In 2011, Megan was also appointed to the Prime Minister's Expert Panel on the Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in the Constitution and continues to be involved in legal discussions on the constitutional issues relating to the referendum model.

Professor Davis was named in the 2017 Australian Financial Review annual power list and was awarded the overall winner in 2018’s Women of Influence. She was ranked number 7 on the Cultural power list for her work on constitutional reform and delivering the Uluru Statement From the Heart. Professor Davis has also been the 2010 NAIDOC Scholar of the Year; one of Australian Financial Review and Westpac's 100 Women of Influence in Australia in 2013 and 2016; National Australia Bank/Women's Agenda Inspirational Ambassador Award in 2013; the University of Queensland Alumni Award for services to the UN and constitutional reform in 2014; the 58th E.S. Meyers Memorial Medal in 2015; the Duchesne College, University of Queensland Acorn Award in 2015 and; the United Nations Association of Australia QLD UN Award in 2017.

Megan supports the North Queensland Cowboys and the Queensland Maroons.

Profile Picture

Davis M; Williams G, 2015, Everything you Need to Know About the Referendum to Recognise Indigenous Australians, NewSouth

Edited Books

Davis M; Langton M, 2016, It's Our Country Indigenous Arguments for Meaningful Constitutional Recognition and Reform, Melbourne Univ. Publishing

Brennan S; Davis MJ; Edgeworth B; Terrill L, (eds.), 2015, Native Title from Mabo to Akiba: A Vehicle for Change and Empowerment

Journal articles

Davis M; Appleby G, 2019, 'First nations voice', Company Director, vol. 35, pp. 37 - 39

Appleby G; Davis M, 2018, 'The uluru statement and the promises of truth', Australian Historical Studies, vol. 49, pp. 501 - 509,

Davis MJ, 2015, 'Seventh Annual Michael Kirby Lecture: Indigenous Australians and the Constitutional Project: The Politics of Discrimination and Why Recognition' is Not Enough', Southern Cross University Law Review, vol. 17, pp. 1 - 1

Davis MJ, 2015, 'Listening but not hearing: When process trumps substance', Griffith Review, pp. 73 - 73

Davis MJ, 2015, 'Closing the Gap in Indigenous Disadvantage: A Trajectory of Indigenous Inequality in Australia', Georgetown Journal of International Law, vol. XVI, pp. 34 - 44

Davis MJ, 2015, 'Australia’s Reconciliation Process in its International Context: Recognition and the Health & Wellbeing of Australia’s Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander People', Australian Indigenous Law Review, vol. 18

Davis MJ, 2015, 'Indigenous Constitutional Recognition from the Point of View of Self-Determination and Its Exercise through Democratic Participation', Indigenous Law Bulletin, vol. 8, pp. 10 - 14

Davis MJ, 2014, 'The Royal Commission and international child rights law', Indigenous Law Bulletin, pp. 19 - 22

Davis MJ, 2014, 'Competing Notions of Constitutional Recognition: Truth and Justice or Living ‘off the Crumbs that Fall off the White Australian Tables’?', Papers on Parliament, pp. 113 - 129

Davis MJ, 2014, 'Future Challenges on the Path to Constitutional Recognition', Public Law Review, pp. 233 - 233

Brennan S; Davis M, 2014, 'Koowarta:Constitutional landmark, transition point or missed opportunity?', Griffith Law Review, vol. 23, pp. 79 - 91,

Davis MJ, 2013, 'Speaking Ill of the Dead: A Comment on S 25 of the Constitution', Public Law Review, pp. 231 - 231

Davis MJ, 2013, 'Community control and the work of the national Aboriginal community controlled health organisation:Putting meat on the bones of the undrip?', Indigenous Law Bulletin, vol. 8, pp. 11 - 14

Davis MJ, 2012, 'Constitutional Recognition does not foreclose on Aboriginal sovereignty', Indigenous Law Bulletin,

Davis MJ, 2012, 'NARRM Oration 2012 - Aboriginal Women: The Right to Self-Determination', Australian Indigenous Law Review, vol. 16

Davis MJ, 2011, 'Constitutional reform and aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people: Why do we want it now?', Indigenous Law Bulletin, vol. 7, pp. 8 - 22,;dn=440534634881509;res=IELHSS

Davis MJ, 2011, 'A Reflection on the Limitations of the Right to Self-determination and Aboriginal Women', Indigenous Law Bulletin, vol. 7, pp. 6 - 8,;dn=973741426130633;res=IELHSS

Davis MJ; Lemezina , 2010, 'Indigenous Australians and the Preamble: Towards a More Inclusive Constitution or Entrenching Marginalisation', University of New South Wales Law Journal, vol. 33, pp. 239 - 266,;dn=676023811832775;res=IELHSS

Davis MJ, 2009, 'International Human Rights Law, Women's Rights and the Intervention', Indigenous Law Bulletin, pp. 11 - 11

Davis MJ, 2009, 'ATSIC and Indigenous Women: Lessons for the Future', Balayi: Culture Law and Colonialism, vol. 10, pp. 73 - 86

Davis MJ, 2009, 'United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples'', Melbourne Journal of International Law, vol. 9, pp. 439 - 471

Davis MJ, 2009, 'Essay: A Woman's Place', Griffith Review: a quarterly review of writing & ideas, vol. 24, pp. 156 - 162

Davis MJ, 2008, 'Indigenous Women`s Representation and the Proposal for a New National Representative Body', Indigenous Law Bulletin, vol. 7, pp. 6 - 9

Davis MJ, 2008, 'Indigenous Rights and the Constitution: Making the Case for Constitutional Reform', Indigenous Law Bulletin, vol. 7, pp. 6 - 8

Davis MJ, 2007, 'How Do Aboriginal Women Fare in Australia Democracy?', Indigenous Law Bulletin, vol. 6, pp. 9 - 11

Davis MJ, 2007, 'Aboriginal or Institutional Silence?: A Brief Comment on the National Emergency Response to the Anderson Wild Report', Indigenous Law Bulletin, vol. 6, pp. 2 - 3

Davis MJ, 2007, 'The Challenges of Indigenous Women in Liberal Democracies', Indigenous Law Bulletin, vol. 7, pp. 20 - 22

Davis MJ, 2007, 'The Recognition of Aboriginal Customary Law and International Law Developments', Indigenous Peoples: Issues in International and Australian Law, pp. 25 - 30

Davis MJ, 2007, 'Indigenous Policy - Unfinished Business', Australian Journal of Public Affairs, vol. Digest

Davis MJ, 2007, 'Parliamentary Inquiries of Free Trade Agreements and Indigenous Peoples', Journal of Indigenous Policy, vol. 7, pp. 90 - 98

Davis MJ, 2007, 'The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples', Australian Indigenous Law Review, vol. 11, pp. 55 - 63

Davis MJ; Watson N, 2006, '`It`s the same old song`: Draconian Counter-Terrorism Laws and the Deja vu of Indigenous Australians', Borderlands e-journal, vol. 5

Davis MJ, 2006, 'International Trade, The World Trade Organisation and the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples', Balayi: Culture Law and Colonialism, pp. 5 - 30

Davis MJ, 2006, 'Treaty, Yeah? The utility of a treaty to advancing reconciliation in Australia', Alternative Law Journal, vol. 31, pp. 127 - 136

Davis MJ, 2006, 'A Culture of Disrespect: Indigenous Peoples and Australian Public Institutions', UTS Law Review, vol. 8, pp. 136 - 154

Davis MJ, 2005, 'International Trade Law and Indigenous Peoples: A New Direction in Human Rights Advocacy?', Australian Indigenous Law Review, vol. 8, pp. 16 - 22

Davis MJ, 2004, 'Indigenous Australia and the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement', Indigenous Law Bulletin, vol. 5, pp. 20 - 23

Davis MJ, 2003, 'Civics Education and Human Rights', Australian Journal of Human Rights, vol. 9, pp. 236 - 255,

Williams G; Davis MJ, 2003, 'A Statutory Bill of Rights for Australia? Lessons from the United Kingdom', University of Queensland Law Journal, vol. 22, pp. 1 - 19

Davis MJ, 2003, 'New Developments in International Advocacy: Amicus Curiae and the World Trade Organisation', Indigenous Law Bulletin, vol. 5, pp. 14 - 17

Davis M, 2002, 'The Awas-Tingni Decision: Case of the Mayagna (Sumo) Awas Tingni Community v The Republic of Nicaragua', Indigenous Law Bulletin, vol. 5, pp. 15 - 18

Davis M, 2002, 'Book Review of `Sceptical Essays on Human Rights` edited by Campbell, KD Ewing and A Tomkins', Adelaide Law Review, vol. 23, pp. 183 - 188

Davis M, 2002, 'Rights Reluctance: Utilitarianism and the Future of Human Rights in Australia', Drawing Board-An Australian Review of Public Affairs

Davis M, 2002, 'The Awaas Tingni Decision: Case of the Mayagna (Sumo) Awas Tingni Community v The Republic of Nicaragua', Indigenous Law Bulletin, vol. 5, pp. 15 - 17

Davis M, 2002, 'New South Wales Bill of Rights Inquiry', Public Law Review, vol. 13, pp. 11 - 14

Davis M, 2002, 'The United Nations Draft Declaration 2002', Indigenous Law Bulletin, vol. 5, pp. 6 - 9

Book Chapters

Brennan S; Davis M, 2018, 'First Peoples', in Saunders C; Stone A (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the Australian Constitution, Oxford University Press,

Davis M, 2017, 'Indigenous women and constitutional recognition', in Constitutions and Gender: Research Handbooks in Comparative Constitutional Law Series, pp. 357 - 386,

Davis MJ, 2017, 'Self-determination and the right to be heard', in Pearson N; Morris S (ed.), A Rightful Place: A Roadmap to Recognition, Melbourne University Publishing

Davis MJ, 2017, 'Deploying and Disputing Aboriginal Feminism in Australia', in Green J (ed.), Making Space for Indigenous Feminism, Fernwood Publishing

Davis MJ, 2016, 'Political Timetables Trump Workable Timetables: Indigenous Constitutional Recognition and the Temptation of Symbolism Over Substance', in Young S; Nielsen J; Patrick J (ed.), Constitutional Recognition of Australia's First Peoples Theories and Comparative Perspectives

Davis MJ, 2016, 'Putting Meat on the Bones of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples', in Esmaeili H; Worby G; Tur S (ed.), Indigenous Australians, Social Justice and Legal Reform Honouring Elliott Johnston, pp. 265 - 265

Davis MJ; Langton M, 2016, 'Constitutional reform in Australia: Recognition of Indigenous Australians and Reconciliation', in Macklem P; Sanderson D (ed.), From Recognition to Reconciliation: Essays on the Constitutional Entrenchment of Aboriginal and Treaty Rights, University of Toronto Press, pp. 449 - 449

Davis MJ, 2016, 'Ships that Pas in the Night', in It's Our Country Indigenous Arguments for Meaningful Constitutional Recognition and Reform, Melbourne Univ. Publishing, pp. 86 - 96

Davis MJ; Langton M, 2016, 'Introduction', in Davis M; Langton M (ed.), It's Our Country Indigenous Arguments for Meaningful Constitutional Recognition and Reform, Melbourne Univ. Publishing, pp. 1 - 26

Davis MJ, 2016, 'Intersectional Theory: Where Gender meets Race, Ethnicity and Violence', in Appleby G; Dixon R (ed.), The Critical Judgments Project Re-Reading Monis V the Queen, Federation Press

Brennan S; Davis M; Edgeworth B; Terrill L, 2015, 'The Idea of Native Title as a Vehicle for Change and Empowerment', in Brennan S; Davis M; Edgeworth B; Terrill L (ed.), Native Title from Mabo to Akiba A Vehicle for Change and Empowerment?, pp. 2 - 13

Davis MJ, 2015, 'To recognise or not to recognise: The place of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Australian Constitution', in Tonkinson R (ed.), The Wentworth Lectures Honouring Fifty Years of Australian Indigenous Studies, pp. 298 - 298

Davis M, 2013, 'Climate change impacts to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Australia', in Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples: The Search for Legal Remedies, pp. 493 - 507

Davis MJ, 2013, 'Climate change impacts to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Australia', in Abate R; Kronk EA (ed.), Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples, Edward Elgar Publishing, Cheltenham, UK, pp. 493 - 507,

Davis MJ; Cottrell R, 2012, 'Affirmative Action', in Tushnet M; Fleiner T; Saunders C (ed.), Routledge Handbook of Constitutional Law, edn. Original, Routledge, UK, pp. 325 - 336,

Davis MJ, 2012, 'Identity, Power and Rights: The State, International Institutions and Indigenous Peoples in Canada', in Gomez T; Sawyer S (ed.), The Politics of Resources Extraction: Indigenous Peoples, Multinational Corporations, and the State, edn. Original, Palgrave, UK, pp. 229 - 251,

Davis MJ, 2011, 'Justifying Designated Parliamentary Seats: International Law and Indigenous Peoples` Right to Self-Determination', in Tham J-C; Costar B; Orr G (ed.), Electoral Democracy: Australian Prospects, edn. Original, Melbourne University Publishing, Victoria, pp. 78 - 98,

Davis MJ, 2010, 'Restorative Justice in South Australia: An Indigenous Bill of Rights', in Berg S (ed.), Coming to Terms: Aboriginal Title in South Australia, edn. Original, Wakefield Press, pp. 227 - 245

Davis MJ, 2009, 'International Law', in Indigenous Legal Issues Commentary and Materials, Lawbook Company, pp. 649 - 649

Davis MJ, 2009, 'Introduction', in McRae H; Nettheim G (ed.), Indigenous Legal Issues: Commentary & Materials, edn. 4th, ThomsonReuters, Australia, pp. 649 - 675

Davis MJ, 2008, 'A Home at the United Nations: Indigenous Peoples and International Advocacy', in Cooper AF; Hocking B; Maley W (ed.), Global Governance and Diplomacy: Worlds Apart?, edn. Studies in Diplomacy and International Relations, Palgrave Macmillan, London, pp. 211 - 223,

Davis MJ, 2008, 'The Globalisation of International Human Rights Law, Aboriginal Women and the practice of Aboriginal Customary Law', in Cain M; Howe A (ed.), Women, Crime and social harm: Towards a Criminology of the Global Age, edn. Original, Hart Publishing, Oxford, UK, pp. 137 - 160

Davis MJ, 2008, 'Self-determination and the Demise of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission', in Johnston E; Hinton M; Rigney D (ed.), Indigenous Australians and the Law, edn. Original, Routledge Cavendish, London, pp. 217 - 232

Davis MJ, 2007, 'Arguing over Indigenous Rights: Australia and the United Nations', in Altman J; Hinkson M (ed.), Coercive Reconciliation: Stabilise, Normalise, Exit Aboriginal Australia, edn. 1, Arena Publications, Australia, pp. 97 - 107

Davis MJ, 2006, 'Chained to the Past: The Psychological Terra Nullius of Australia`s Public Institutions', in Protecting Rights Without a Bill of Rights: Institutional Performance and Reform in Australia, edn. Original, Ashgate, Aldershot, England, pp. 175 - 195

Davis MJ, 2005, 'Slouching towards Australian Public Libraries: The World Trade Organisation General Agreement on Trade in Services', in Nakata M; Langton M (ed.), Australian Indigenous Knowledge and Libraries, edn. Original, Australian Academic & Research Libraries, Australia, pp. 129 - 147


Davis M, 2020, Family Is Culture,

Cripps KA; Davis M, 2012, Communities working to reduce Indigenous family violence, Indigenous Justice Clearinghouse, Sydney, Indigenous Justice Clearinghouse Research Brief, 12,,

Davis M; Cripps K; Miller L, 2009, Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women's Parallel NGO Report: The Implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), YWCA, Melbourne

Davis MJ, 2005, International Human Rights law and the Recognition of Aboriginal Customary Law, Law Reform Commission of Western Australia, Aboriginal Customary Law Reference


Davis MJ; Brennan S, 2007, A Narrative of Exclusion: Indigenous Rights in Australia, Australian Human Rights Centre

Conference Presentations

Cripps K; Davis M; Hardman A, 'Indigenous Sexual Assault Cases & the Australian Justice System: Exploring patterns in procedure, precedent and legal reasoning in cases involving women & children', presented at Healing Our Spirit Worldwide Conference, 6th Gathering, Honolulu, Hawaii, 03 September 2010 - 10 September 2010

Working Papers

Cripps K; Davis M; Taylor L; Hardman A, 2010, Sexual violence and Indigenous victims: women, children and the criminal justice system, UNSW Indigenous Law Centre, Sydney, 1,

ANU 2018 Indigenous Alumna of the Year

Overall Winner - The Australian Financial Review 100 Women of Influence 2018

ARC Discovery Indigenous, 2018 – Professor Megan Davis and Professor George Williams - $399,600: Recognition after Uluru: what next for First Nations?

ANROWS Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Grant Round, 2017 – Professor Marica Langton, Professor Megan Davis and Dr Kristen Smith - $199,415: Improving family violence legal and support services for Indigenous women.

UNSW Major Research Equipment and Infrastructure Initiative, 2015-16 – Megan Davis - $97,672: Australian Indigenous Law Library.

ARC Discovery Indigenous, 2013-16 – Dr Kyllie Cripps, Professor Megan Davis and Associate Professor Anne Cossins - $230,000: The role of cultural factors in the sentencing of Indigenous sex offenders in the Northern Territory.

Indigenous peoples and law (human rights); Indigenous women in Australian democracy; Indigenous peoples in international law; United Nations Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.



Thought leadership|29 Jun 2020
‘Aboriginal children deserve better’: Chair of a damning review calls for urgent action
Professor Megan Davis, the author of the independent review into Aboriginal children and young people in out-of-home care, says the government needs to “implement recommendations and announce the way forward”.
Thought leadership|26 May 2020
UNSW professor named Chair in Constitutional Law
Professor Megan Davis, Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous and Professor of Law at UNSW Sydney, has today been named the Balnaves Chair in Constitutional Law.
Thought leadership|26 May 2020
Three years on from Uluru, voice remains vital
On the 3rd anniversary of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, Professor Megan Davis says that the coronavirus pandemic highlights the need for a First Nations Voice to Parliament. 
Opinion|21 Apr 2020
Human rights under threat from COVID-19? Concerns raised over disability and ethical decision-making
Human rights need to be protected during the coronavirus pandemic, leading academics say.
Opinion|Thought leadership|18 Feb 2020
Constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians must involve structural change
Australians have been working towards meaningful change for almost a decade. That cannot be derailed by reverting to symbolic recognition.
Thought leadership|14 Feb 2020
No 'special rights' established by High Court ruling, says UNSW Law Professor
Professor Megan Davis says elements of this week’s High Court case, which found in limited circumstances Aboriginal people cannot be regarded as 'aliens', have been exaggerated.
Opinion|Thought leadership|28 Jan 2020
'What Australia Day means to me'
UNSW Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous Professor Megan Davis says the Uluru Statement from the Heart provides a roadmap to resolving the heated Australia Day debate. 
Achievement|21 Nov 2019
UNSW Law student named as a finalist for Human Rights Award
'This recognition is not for me, it’s for the ancestors who have been fighting much bigger battles before me.'
Achievement|11 Sep 2019
UNSW academics among most influential women in Australia
Leaders in the fields of medicine, law, public health and built environment named on the 2019 AFR 100 Women of Influence list.
Achievement|03 Apr 2019
UNSW Law celebrates 100 Indigenous graduates
The faculty recognises a significant milestone in a journey that is planned to pick up pace and is striving for 300 Indigenous alumni. 
Thought leadership|29 Mar 2019
UNSW conference will explore how business is stepping up on human rights
Industry leaders and global human rights activists will discuss technology, diversity, modern slavery and Indigenous rights at the Innovate Rights 2019 event.
29 Nov 2018
UNSW Law professor elected to the Academy of Social Sciences
Scientia Professor Rosemary Rayfuse has been elected to the Academy of Social Sciences in recognition of her exemplary achievements.
19 Oct 2018
UNSW Professor Megan Davis named AFR’s Most Influential Woman
UNSW Sydney Pro Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous), Professor Megan Davis, has won top honours in The Australian Financial Review/Qantas 100 Women of Influence Awards.
05 Sep 2018
UNSW academics shortlisted among 100 most influential women in Australia
PVC Indigenous Megan Davis and Science Dean Emma Johnston have been named in this year’s AFR/Qantas 100 Women of Influence Awards.
30 Jul 2018
Aboriginal women in the spotlight in second Mason Conversation
Two prominent Aboriginal women who led the unique process which culminated in the historic Uluru Statement from the Heart will take part in the second Mason Conversation at UNSW on August 16.
14 Nov 2017
Nura Gili’s 5th annual Indigenous Awards Night
Gathering for an evening of celebrations on campus, Nura Gili, UNSW’s Centre for Indigenous Programs hosted their 5th annual Awards Night on Friday 13 October. The evening recognises and celebrates the academic achievements, triumphs of effort and resilience of Indigenous students across UNSW.
20 Oct 2017
UNSW features in AFR's annual power list
Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous and Professor of Law, Megan Davis has been named alongside UNSW Chancellor David Gonski and UNSW quantum physicist Professor Michelle Simmons, in Australia's 30 most powerful people list, in the Australian Financial Review Magazine's annual Power issue. Professor Megan Davis and the Referendum Council are ranked at number 7 on the Australian Financial Review’s Cultural Power List. The Cultural Power list, measures a person's ability to define what it means to be Australian.
06 Jun 2017
Symbolic constitutional recognition off the table after Uluru talks, Indigenous leaders say
Professor Megan Davis spoke to ABC News (27 May 2017) following her reading of the "Uluru Statement of the Heart" at the closing ceremony of the Uluru convention.