Dr Julia Duffy

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Research Fellow, Faculty of Business and Law

Doctor of Philosophy (Queensland University of Technology), Master of Laws (1st Class)(University of Cambridge), LLB (University Medal) (Queensland University of Technology), Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (Women’s Studies)(City University of New York, Graduate School and University Centre), Bachelor of Arts (University of Sydney)

Dr Julia Duffy is a Research Fellow at the Australian Centre for Health Law Research in the Faculty of Business and Law, Queensland University of Technology. Her book Mental Capacity, Dignity and the Power of International Human Rights, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2023. It explores the complex relationships between human rights, adults with cognitive disability and personhood. It advocates for a recognition of a human rights framework that emphasies the importance of economic, social and cultural rights.


Dr Duffy currently works with Professor Shih-Ning Then, in providing regulatory and legal policy advice to government and non-government agencies in the areas of supported decision-making and human rights. She also researches, presents and publishes on issues relating to guardianship, supported decision-making and mental health law. She is coordinator of the inaugural ACHLR feminist bioethics reding group.

Dr Duffy’s interest in health law and ethics began with her tenure as the Executive Director of the Queensland Government Child Protection Commission of Inquiry, which led to her later being appointed as Queensland’s Deputy Public Guardian. The Office of the Public Guardian provides community visiting services to children in care, but its primary responsibility is to make personal decisions relating to health care and other matters with and for adults with impaired decision-making capacity, when they have no other supporters in their lives. From 2018 to 2021 she was a part time legal member of Queensland’s Mental Health Review Tribunal, making decisions on involuntary treatment for adults with mental illness. For nine years she served as a member of the Psychology Board of Queensland, for five years as a member of the Osteopathy Board of Australia and served on several subcommittee including a multi-profession immediate action commitee. She served for nine years as a non-executive director of Family Planning Queensland (now trading as True Relationships and Reproductive Health), an organisation committed to providing reproductive health services to disadvantaged women, including those with disabilities.

Dr Duffy has had a lengthy career as a policy advisor, lawyer and senior executive in the Queensland Government across multiple portfolios. She began her government career in the Office of Consumer Affairs, developing regulatory and licensing legislation across industries including second hand motor vehicle dealers, real estate agents, mobile home parks, retirement villages and dating agencies. Prior to joining the Office of Consumer Affairs as a Legal Officer, she had been seconded to that Office from private legal practice, to develop and support the introduction into Parliament of the Sea-Carriage Documents Act 1996 (Qld). Later, in Queensland Treasury she led a review and rewrite of the Land Tax Act 1915 (Qld), instructing on and briefing government and opposition members of the Legislative Assembly on its repeal and replacement by the Land Tax Act 2009 (Qld). As a senior officer in the Department of Justice and Attorney-General she developed legislation restricting legal advertising as part of the government’s civil liability reform agenda. As a Senior Executive in that department she also led a review of Queensland’s court transcribing services, in response to significant criticisms  by the Queensland Audit Office.

Prior to coming to the Law, Julia had graduated with a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies from the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate School and University Centre, completing her thesis titled: Language, Gender and Temporality in Virginia Woolf. On returning to Australia, she completed her LLB at the Queensland University of Technology, served as an Associate to the late Mr Justice McPherson of the Court of Appeal, and worked as a researcher for his book, Reception of English Law Abroad (Supreme Court of Queensland Library, 2007). She is admitted as a solicitor of the Supreme Court of Queensland and Federal Court of Australia. In 2001 to 2002 she spent one year in the UK with her young family, where she completed a Master of Law (1st class) at the University of Cambridge, funded by the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust and Clare Hall’s Hart Bursary.

In 2019 she was granted an Australian Postgraduate Research Award to study with academics at the ACHLR, completing a PhD thesis titled: The Indivisibility of Human Rights and Decision-making by, with and for Adults with Cognitive Disabilities.

Research interests

  • Adult guardianship and surrogate decision-making
  • Supported decision-making for adults with cognitive disabilities
  • Philosophical and legal conceptions of personhood
  • Human rights law and theory