Virginia Marshall

Virginia Marshall

Virginia Marshall, Australia.

Dr Virginia Marshall
PhD (law) LLM, GDLP, LLB, BA (Hons), B Voc Ed & Training

First Aboriginal woman to gain a PhD in Law from Macquarie University, Virginia’s thesis won the prestigious Stanner Award in 2015; Pre-eminent scholar in Aboriginal water rights and interests; peer-reviewed journal articles and chapters in law textbooks.
Principal Solicitor [2013 – current] | Triple BL Legal
Providing legal services specialising in law reform, Indigenous TK protection, native title, water law
Senior Legal Officer [2010 –2011] | Australian Law Reform Commission
High level law reform research and analysis of complex issues
Senior Research Fellow [2010] Nyikina Mangala Aboriginal Corporation
Managed project to identify and develop sustainable and culturally appropriate uses of riverine and coastal resources and identify opportunities for innovative enterprise development

Author of Overturning aqua nullius
An acclaimed book published by Aboriginal Studies Press in February 2017 with a foreword by the Hon Michael Kirby.

Presentation Title: Overturning aqua nullius

Securing Aboriginal water rights is an imperative. It is absolutely vital to addressing Aboriginal disadvantage. It is a vital step towards closing the disgraceful gap in Aboriginal health and wealth status. I argue that there is a compelling case to incorporate a reserved water right for Aboriginal peoples, outside the consumptive pool, to provide economic certainty for Aboriginal peoples. With the legislation of the Intergovernmental Agreement and National Water Reforms separating water title from land title creating tradable property rights in water, the failure to consider the water rights of Aboriginal people was the culmination of a long process of aqua nullius for Australia’s first peoples. In itself this legal separation of water and land was an alien concept for Aboriginal people, for whom water and land were innately inseparable, intimately connected to our sense of self, our ontology and our laws. Water is a key resource in this dry continent, but the negligible degree of Aboriginal water ownership remains a serious threat to Aboriginal living standards and health conditions. Far too many Aboriginal communities suffer from sub-standard water quality and grossly inadequate water infrastructure. The 2006 UN World Water Development Report produced by UNESCO made the point that ‘Water is power, and those who control the flow of water in time and space can exercise this power in various ways’. Establishing Aboriginal water ownership and tradable water licences would ensure economic certainty in the water market for Aboriginal communities. My book Overturning aqua nullius provides the legal case, and the human rights case, for Aboriginal water rights. It argues from an Aboriginal perspective that Aboriginal water rights is a human rights imperative. Human rights standards and principles must be the benchmark for water access, utility and use.

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