Professor Samantha Hepburn

Professor of Law

Professor Samantha Hepburn has made significant contributions to environmental law research, specialising in mining and energy regulation and policy.

Pursuing a lifelong calling

Protecting the environment has been a lifelong calling for Professor Samantha Hepburn. Her passion for the natural world was nurtured during childhood, when her family camped most years at Wilsons Promontory National Park in Victoria.

‘I can remember when I was about seven or eight years old my Mum saying to me: we’re living in the most beautiful part of the world, and we never want these places to be damaged. We are the guardians,’ she says. ‘My first ever law publication, which occurred when I was in the second year of my law degree, was aptly called ‘The Lungs of the Earth’.

If Prof. Hepburn’s original career aspirations had gone to plan, she would now be a top barrister ‘fighting the good fight through the courts’. Fortunately for Deakin University, the renewable energy sector and the planet, fate intervened.

Prof. Hepburn kicked off her career by obtaining a Bachelor of Laws at Monash University, followed by a Master of Laws and PhD in Law both from University of Melbourne before becoming a lecturer at Australian National University (2008 to 2010).

As a student, Prof. Hepburn saw how the law could improve land rights and protect the environment. The Mabo case was pivotal – showing Australia wouldn’t be ‘frozen in an age of discrimination’. Now she is Professor of Law in Deakin’s Faculty of Law and Business and a world expert on energy and environmental law and the role they play in supporting the imperatives of climate change.

Research crucial to improved environmental law

A growing interest in climate change and the regulatory and policy responses relevant to a transitioning resource sector has seen Prof. Hepburn develop an impressive reputation in her field.

‘Australia, like the rest of the world, must transition to a new energy landscape. Climate imperatives and technological innovation are driving this change and regulatory frameworks are struggling to keep pace. This is where my research comes in,’ she says.

‘My research examines the way in which environmental and climate law and policy interacts with energy law.  This includes an examination of gas and renewable frameworks, federal and state climate policy, indigenous and private climate governance and broader energy security concerns.’

Breaking the silence on climate change

Providing thought leadership and knowledge in the courts and news media outlets, Prof. Hepburn has been a powerful voice in the fight against climate change and its impacts upon the environment and cultural heritage.  She has published a second edition of her Mining and Energy Law book with Cambridge University Press, published internationally and provided expert commentary on Queensland’s Adani coal mine, the destruction of Western Australia’s Juukan Gorge 1 and 2, the regulation of onshore wind farms and gas development and pricing.

Prof. Hepburn is drawn to the challenge of galvanising climate action as the window of opportunity to save our planet rapidly closes.

‘I’m deeply motivated by the profound importance of developing rules to help create a more sustainable future for our social and natural world’ she says.

‘As members of a global community, we will all experience the impacts of climate change and we must do everything in our power to reduce our carbon footprint.  I believe I have a professional, social and ethical responsibility to make as significant a contribution as I can to ensure we develop a cleaner and more sustainable approach to energy production and natural resource management.

Samantha teaches and researches in the area of property and land law, as well as mining, energy and environmental law. She has published several books and articles and is an active contributor on The Conversation website. Samantha has been outspoken on the issue of the proposed Adani coal mine and has a strong research interest in unconventional gas regulation in Australia, both issues which feature strongly in climate change conversations.

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