Profile image of Rebekah McWhirter

A/Prof. Rebekah McWhirter



Associate Professor


Faculty of Health


School of Medicine


Geelong Waurn Ponds Campus


Juris Doctor, Australian National University, 2022
Master of Science in Public Health, University of Edinburgh, 2010
Doctor of Philosophy, University of Tasmania, 2008
Bachelor of Arts (1st Class Honours), University of Tasmania, 2003


Dr Rebekah McWhirter is an associate professor in health law and ethics in the School of Medicine. Her research interests include ethical and legal issues in health and health research, Indigenous genetics, and empirical research methods in ethical and legal research. She completed her PhD at the University of Tasmania on the history of compulsory vaccination legislation, and has a MSc in Public Health Research from the University of Edinburgh, investigating genetic risk factors for multiple sclerosis in the Orkney and Shetland Islands.

After working at the Menzies School of Health Research in Darwin and the Menzies Institute for Medical Research on a range of cancer genetics projects, Rebekah joined the Centre for Law and Genetics, and retrained in law at the University of Melbourne and the ANU. Her work now brings together her multidisciplinary experiences to focus on how the law can be used to improve public health and health research.

Read more on Rebekah's profile

Research interests

Health and medical law, including public health law, vaccination laws, and human rights in health law

Research ethics

Ethical and legal issues in genomics


Board member of Women's Health Tasmania

Australasian Association of Bioethics and Health Law, co-theme leader for Empirical Ethics

Human Genetics Society of Australia

Public Health Association of Australia

Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases

Teaching interests

health law; bioethics; research ethics; empirical research methods

Units taught

HME941 Year 4 Research Scholar Program


Knowledge areas

health law; research ethics; regulation of genomics; genomics and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities; empirical research in law and ethics; vaccination law; legal epidemiology

Media appearances

Donation of surplus oocytes for mitochondrial transfer research: with Mel Bush, Mornings on ABC Radio, 10 August 2022

'COVID safety at health and medical conferences: what more can be done?' interview with Alison Barrett, Croakey Health Media, 3 August 2022

Medical exemptions for COVID-19 vaccines 'very rare': with Alexia Attwood on ABC Radio National PM, 13 August 2021

Informed consent and legal issues in genomics, Now That's What I Call Science (Edge Radio and Podcast with Niamh Chapman), 21 October 2019

Bioethics and Health Law: with Helen Shield on ABC Hobart 936, 1 October 2019

Duty to disclose, MJA Podcast Episode 40, 7 August 2017


Rebekah is a CI on three MRFF Genomics Health Futures Mission projects: 'Pathways to Benefit for Indigenous Australians in Genomic Medicine' (led by Prof Alex Brown); 'Addressing emerging ethical, legal and social issues in governance of clinical and genomic datasets' (led by Prof Ainsley Newson); and 'Returning Raw Genomic Data: Patient Autonomy or Legal Minefield?' (led by A/Prof Jane Nielsen), as well as an ARC Discovery Project, 'Genomic Data Sharing: Issues in Law, Research Ethics and Society' (led by Prof Dianne Nicol).

She is an AI on an NHMRC Partnership Grant, 'Improved cardiovascular Disease hEALth service delivery in Australia: IDEAL Cluster Randomised Controlled Trial' (led by Prof Jim Sharman) and on an NHMRC Synergy grant 'Respecting the Gift: empowering Indigenous communities in genomic medicine' (led by Prof Alex Brown).

In addition, she leads an SSN funded project 'Towards effective legal scrutiny of public health interventions' with a focus on vaccination laws, and contributes to a number of projects on research ethics and governance of health research.