The Annual Kirby Lecture on International Law - The duality of water: Conflict or co-operation

Date & time
6–7.15pm Thursday 20 September 2018


Australian Centre on China in the World, 188 Fellows Lane, The Australian National University

Justice Melissa Perry, Federal Court of Australia


For interstate visitors, we offer suggestions for accommodation near ANU.

ANU Law Marketing & Communications

Presented by the Centre of International & Public Law

Public lecture

Part of the Annual Kirby Lecture on International Law series

Melissa Perry

Water is key to the existence of life. From the nourishment of our physical selves, to sanitation, health, agriculture, and energy production our existence and way of life depends upon access to adequate and reliable supplies of fresh-water. 

Yet population growth, climate change, industrial and agricultural consumption, water pollution, demographic changes, and urbanisation, are contributing to a global fresh-water crisis. These stressors in turn have created a real and increasing risk of conflict not only over control of water sources, but also for equitable access to fresh-water, and through vulnerability to attacks on water systems as a weapon of war or terror. 

While their intensity and scale have varied, these risks have confronted integrated state systems since antiquity. Themes of universal relevance to inform the international responses can be drawn from classical Greek systems of water management and for the pacific settlement of disputes. Using ancient history to illuminate the issues of today, the lecture will explore principles of international law as they relate to fresh-water resources and the mechanisms by which water may be a cause for co-operation as opposed to conflict. 

Please join us for refreshments from 5.30pm.


  • Justice Melissa Perry »

    Justice Melissa Perry was appointed to the Federal Court of Australia in 2013. Her Honour graduated in Law from Adelaide University with 1st class honours, and was awarded a prize-winning PhD in public international law from Cambridge University. She practiced at the Bar in Australia from 1992 to 2013, being appointed Queen’s Counsel in 2004, and was admitted to the Bar of England and Wales in 2012. 

    Her Honour’s areas of expertise in practice included environmental law, native title, constitutional law, and international law. Justice Perry serves as a Squadron Leader with the Royal Australian Air Force Legal Specialist Reserves. She is also a member of the Judicial Council on Cultural Diversity and chaired the specialist committee which prepared the Recommended National Standards for Working with Interpreters in Courts and Tribunals (2017). 

    Among other roles, her Honour is a Fellow and former director of the Australian Academy of Law, and a member of the advisory boards for the Centre for International and Public Law (ANU), the Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law (UNSW), and the Research Unit for Military Law and Ethics (University of Adelaide). Her Honour recently co-edited Australian Native Title Law (2nd ed) (2018).


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