Scientia Professor Megan Davis from UNSW School of Global & Public Law has been recognised for her achievement in, and contribution to, the humanities in Australia.

Prof. Davis’ election to the Australian Academy of the Humanities represents the highest honour within the humanities in Australia.

A renowned constitutional lawyer and human rights advocate, she is among 40 Fellows elected in 2023, reflecting Australia’s diverse learned humanities community. 

Read more UNSW academic elected to Australian Academy of the Humanities

The Academy advances knowledge of, and the pursuit of excellence in, the humanities and recognises outstanding researchers and leaders in Australia. 

Prof. Davis said this honour was appreciated, after a particularly busy year working on the Voice referendum.

“It has been a gruelling year and not the result we expected but the work of constitutional recognition has been 12 years in the making and will continue. My doctoral thesis was on constitutional recognition of Aboriginal women and gender, and really I have worked on constitutional recognition of First Nations my entire academic career. It’s an honour.”

UNSW Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Attila Brungs said Prof. Davis' election as a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities was fitting testament to her profound dedication to scholarship and advocacy across human rights and constitutional law.

“Prof. Davis is a true champion of evidence-based change. Prof. Davis’ exceptional leadership and advocacy for the rights of First Nations and Torres Strait Islander people over the past two decades, including the pivotal role she played in the dialogue surrounding the Voice to Parliament, alongside her commitment to scholarship, justice and equity is inspirational. This honour is testament to that.”  

UNSW Deputy Vice-Chancellor Transformation, Planning & Assurance and former Dean of Law & Justice Professor George Williams said the Fellowship was “fitting recognition of Megan's excellent scholarship and national and international leadership as an academic and thought leader”.

Professor Davis is recognised around the world

Prof. Davis is a globally recognised expert in Indigenous people's rights and was elected by the United Nations Human Rights Council to the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples based in Geneva in 2017, and again in 2019 (2017-2022). She was previously elected by the UN Economic and Social Council to the role of expert member and Chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, UN Headquarters in New York (2011-2016).

The Director of the Indigenous Law Centre at UNSW, Prof. Davis has worked on constitutional recognition at UNSW Law & Justice for more than 20 years. She designed the dialogue process and the First Nations National Constitutional Convention that led to the Uluru Statement from the Heart and its call for the First Nations Voice to the Australian parliament.

Prof. Davis delivered the Uluru Statement for the first time on the floor of the First Nations Constitutional Convention in May 2017, and has been relentless in her advocacy for the Voice to Parliament. 

Writing in TIME magazine this year, Linda Burney MP, Minister for Indigenous Australians, described Prof. Davis as having held “a very important chapter in the story of Australia”, owing to the instrumental role she played in getting Australia to the historic Voice referendum.

Minister Burney described the referendum as a moment when Australians had an opportunity to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Constitution and in doing so acknowledge 65,000 years of culture and tradition.