John Southalan


John Southalan is an Australian lawyer who has practised in commercial and human rights law since the early 1990s. He originally worked with Corrs Chambers Westgarth in general commercial litigation and in finance and local government.

Since 1998, John has mainly worked in relation to human rights and rule of law issues. After two years in Thailand, through the Australian Volunteers program, he has continued occasional volunteer work with the Burma Lawyers Council including researching, writing as well as law/human rights training on the Thai-Burma border.

John has worked for over eight years with Australia's Human Rights Commission and the Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation in relation to indigenous land rights. This involves advice and court work. He has had considerable input into industry and governmental reviews as to mining and indigenous rights, and significant involvement in the Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development process.

John also writes on various topics including resource taxation and management, indigenous land rights law, common law, and combating impunity.

Publications and Editorial Contacts

Native Title Service, Looseleaf Contact: LN SL Publishing

Awards & Recognition

MBA with Distinction, and Management Degree Prize for best MBA graduate of year.

Speaking Engagements

  • Mining Law and Policy International Perspectives, Federation Press (2012).
  • 'Common Law v Human Rights: Which Better Protects Freedoms?' Brief, December 2011, 10-14.
  • 'Indigenous People and Resources Development - A Rapidly Changing Legal Landscape', OGEL Journal (Oil, Gas & Energy Law Intelligence) vol 9(4) (with Kenneth Culotta & Archie Fallon)
  • Examining the Grammar of Investment Treaty Arbitration: Past Imperfect, Future Tense, paper to the 3rd Biennial Conference of Asian SIL 'Asia and International Law: A New Era ', Beijing, August 2011 (with Kanaga Dharmananda SC).
  • 'What are the implications of human rights for minerals taxation?' Resources Policy, vol 36(3), 214-226.
  • 'Authorisation of Native Title Claims - Problems With A Claim Group Representative Body' Australian Resources and Energy Law Journal, vol 29(1), 49-59.
  • 'Australian Indigenous-resource Developments: Martu People v Reward Minerals' Journal of Energy & Natural Resources Law, vol 27(4), 671-685.
  • 'Let's hope it's a small elephant in a big room: sustainable development and human rights' presentation at Accountability and Human Rights Symposium, 1 Sep 2009, University of St Andrews.
  • 'Mineral economics for non-industry players', Aurora Project paper, April 2009.
  • 'CSR, the environment, and false advertising laws' presentation at CSR and Our Planet session at International Bar Association Annual Conference, Buenos Aires, October 2008.
  • 'Hurdles for the judiciary: the application of the Beijing Principles in Australia' paper at the Australasian Law Teachers Association Conference 'Law and Public Policy: Taming the Unruly Horse?', September 2007 (with Kanaga Dharmananda)
  • 'Burma and the common law? An Uncommon question' Thailand Law Journal 2007 Spring (Issue 1) Volume 10
  • 'Impunity and Judicial Independence' Legal Issues on Burma Journal, Vol 17, April 2004
  • 'Case note: John Doe & Others -v- Unocal Corporation & Others' Legal Issues on Burma Journal, Vol 13, December 2002
  • 'Military regime to establish base on Mars...or a human rights commission' Legal Issues on Burma Journal, Vol 15, April 2000
  • The 55th Session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and its relevance for human rights in the Asia Pacific (90 pages)
  • Campaign Against National Security Laws in Asia Pacific: A Guide Book, Asia Pacific Human Rights NGOs Facilitating Team, March 1999


  • Committee Member, Australian Lawyers for Human Rights
  • Board Member, Centre for Native Title Anthropology
Areas of expertise
Human Rights
Native Title
Mining and Resources
Academic Qualifications
Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (Cambridge University, through International House, Sydney)
Bachelor of Laws (University of Western Australia)
Master of Business Administration (University of Dundee)
Professional Organisation
Australian legal practitioner (ABN 58 778 632 415)
In House Counsel, Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation
Global Faculty, Centre for Energy, Petroleum and Mineral Law and Policy
Honorary Fellow (Faculty of Law), University of Western Australia