Dr Anita

Dr Anita Mackay


College of Arts, Social Sciences and Commerce

La Trobe Law School


PhD (Monash University); Grad Cert Higher Education (Deakin); LLM specialising in Government Law (ANU); BA/LLB (Hons) (Macquarie)



Membership of professional associations

Admitted to practice as a barrister in any federal court and entered on the roll of legal practitioners in the Supreme Court of the ACT; Editorial Board member of the Alternative Law Journal; Member of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Criminology

Area of study


Brief profile

Anita is a Lecturer at La Trobe Law School.  Anita’s research interests are varied, but the unifying theme is how law may be used as a tool to protect vulnerable and marginalised members of the community.  For example, the protection afforded to people in prison by international human rights law (Anita’s doctoral thesis was entitled ‘Prerequisites for Achieving Human Rights Compliance in Australian Prisons’) and how tort law may be used to protect children in immigration detention.

Anita has an interest in how law reform processes, such as Parliamentary Committees and Royal Commissions, provide avenues for public participation and exposure of wrongdoing.  In conducting this research she draws on her experience as a legal researcher for a Victorian parliamentary committee, and extensive experience developing government responses to recommendations from within the public service.

Anita has published nationally and internationally on topics including what Australia may learn from the Nordic approach to imprisonment, smoking bans in prisons and forensic psychiatric institutions and same-sex marriage under international law.  She was a co-editor of the Human Rights in Closed Environments special issue of Law in Context published in 2014.  Anita was the recipient of the Law School's Research Excellence Award in 2017 (Early Career Researcher category).  Anita’s publications can be accessed on the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) 

Prior to joining La Trobe Law School Anita worked on the Applying Human Rights in Closed Environments project at Monash University, as a Senior Legal Officer in the Australian Government Attorney-General’s Department (in a range of policy areas, including family law and access to justice), as a Legal Research Officer for a Victorian Parliamentary Committee and as a Lecturer at Western Sydney University.  

Teaching units

Recent publications

Edited collections

Human Rights in Closed Environments (The Federation Press, 2014) (with Bronwyn Naylor and Julie Debeljak)

Peer reviewed journal articles

'Article 10(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Australian prisons' Australian Journal of Human Rights (published online 5 December 2017) https://doi.org/10.1080/1323238X.2017.1397095

'The Relevance of the United Nations Mandela Rules for Australian Prisons' (2017) 42(4) Alternative Law Journal (2017) 279-85

The Evolutionary Interpretation of Treaties and the Right to Marry: Why Article 23(2) of the ICCPR Should Be Re-Interpreted to Encompass Same-Sex Marriage’ (with Oscar Roos) (2017) 49(4) George Washington International Law Review 879

'Lawyers, Confidentiality and Whistleblowing: Lessons from the McCabe Tobacco Litigation' (with Christine Parker and Suzanne Le Mire) (2017) 40(3) Melbourne University Law Review 999-1056 

'Legal Challenge to the Smoking Ban at Thomas Embling Hospital: The application of the Victorian Charter' (2016) 41(4) Alternative Law Journal 279

The human rights implications of smoking bans in closed environments: What Australia may learn from the international experience’ (2016) 46 International Journal of Law, Crime and Justice 13-30.

A strategic framework for implementing human rights in closed environments’ (with Bronwyn Naylor and Julie Debeljak) (2015) 41(1) Monash University Law Review 218-270.

Human rights protections for people with mental health and cognitive disability in prisons’, (2015) 22(6) Psychiatry, Psychology and Law 842-868.

Human rights law compliance in prisons: What can Australia learn from the Nordic approach?’ (2014) 20(1) Australian Journal of Human Rights 31-65.

Stubbing out smoking in prisons: Bans are an ineffective mechanism’ (2014) 39(2) Alternative Law Journal 99-103.

The road to the ACT’s first prison (the Alexander Maconochie Centre) was paved with rehabilitative intentions’ (2012) 11(1) Canberra Law Review 33-57.

Book chapters

‘Operationalising human rights law in Australia: Establishing a human rights culture in the new Canberra prison and transforming the culture of Victoria Police’ in Bronwyn Naylor, Julie Debeljak and Anita Mackay (eds), Human Rights in Closed Environments (The Federation Press, 2014).

‘Introduction: Implementing Human Rights In Closed Environments’ (with Bronwyn Naylor and Julie Debeljak) in Bronwyn Naylor, Julie Debeljak and Anita Mackay (eds), Human Rights in Closed Environments (The Federation Press, 2014).

Teaching Materials

Legal Institutions and Methods (Thomson Reuters, 2018)

Other articles

Overcrowding in Australian Prisons. The Human Rights Implications’ (2015) 128 Precedent 37-41.

‘Human Rights in “Closed Environments”’ (with Julie Debeljak and Bronwyn Naylor) in Castan Centre for Human Rights Law Human Rights Report 2014.

Blog posts

'If Australia’s denial of same-sex divorce is discriminatory under international law, what about denial of same-sex marriage?', Law and Justice, 8 September 2017.

The human rights implications of smoking bans in prisons: Some international cases’, Regarding Rights, 14 August 2015.  

Smoking bans in Australian prisons’, Regarding Rights, 15 May 2014.  

Accommodating people in cages and shipping containers: the reality of overcrowded prisons’, Regarding Rights, 31 January 2014.

Women in Australian prisons and why they need human rights protections’, Regarding Rights, 4 October 2013.

A human rights assessment of the proposed needle and syringe exchange program in Canberra’s prison’, Regarding Rights, 22 March 2013

Recent presentations

'The right to prepare a criminal defence while imprisoned' Australian and New Zealand Society of Criminology conference December 2017, Canberra

Older publications

Peer reviewed journal articles

Recent developments in sexual harassment law: Towards a new model’ (2009) 14(2) Deakin Law Review 189-217.

Harm suffered by children in immigration detention: Can tort law provide redress?’ (2006) 14 The Tort Law Review 16-32.

Who gets a better deal? Women and prenuptial agreements in Australia and the USA’ (2003) 7 University of Western Sydney Law Review 109-133.