Dr Renae Barker

Started at UWA: 2013

Fighting for religious freedoms

The opportunity to advocate for religious minorities who often have little political power is what I love most about what I do.Dr Renae Barker

Dr Renae Barker is a legal academic and senior lecturer at the UWA Law School. Her speciality is the interaction between law and religion, spanning freedom of religion in the Australian Constitution and international law, to tax exemptions for religious organisations, and to religious schools and when and where people can pray.

Dr Barker’s current research focus is on the interaction between the law, religion and children, building on her previous work on vulnerable religious groups including Muslim women. She stresses that children are a particularly vulnerable group as they have no political power and are often subject to different religious controls. 

She proposes that the place of religion in Australia, especially in relation to children, is up for debate. “Children cannot advocate for themselves, it is therefore important that academics contribute to the debate providing information about the law and how that impacts on children’s rights.”

Dr Barker currently teaches units in the UWA postgraduate law degree, the Juris Doctor, and undergraduate majors: Law and Society and Business Law

As the daughter of an Anglican priest, Dr Barker has been involved in church leadership roles for as long as she can remember. During her Law studies at Murdoch University, Dr Barker began to see a strong link between her studies and religion. This led her to undertake an Honours thesis on the Australian legal definition of religion. On completing her law degree, Dr Barker started to practice law at a small firm in Bunbury. Shortly after commencing her role, she decided to return to her first passion – the intersection of law and religion. Dr Barker has been working in this space ever since; a vast, complex and eclectic field growing in relevance. 

Dr Barker has a long history with UWA. She started her Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) at UWA in 2009 and commenced as a casual tutor in 2011. From 2013 she was employed as a full-time staff member at UWA. 


  • Bachelor of Laws (LLB) (Honours), Murdoch University
  • Bachelor of Economics (BEcon), Murdoch University
  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), The University of Western Australia

External positions

  • Writing Fellow at Brigham Young University International Centre for Law and Religion Studies 
  • Advocate for the Anglican Diocese of Bunbury
  • Honorary Research Fellow at the Centre for Muslim States and Societies, UWA

The University of Western Australia Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award – Programs That Enhance Student Learning, 2016

The University of Western Australia Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award, 2014

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The University of Western Australia Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award (Tutor), 2011

Publication of State and Religion: The Australian Story (Routledge, 2018)

Participation in the Young Scholars Fellowship on Religion and the Rule of Law hosted by Brigham Young University International Centre for Law and Religion Studies in Oxford in 2019

Dr Renae Barker

You can always learn something, teaching is a two-way street. While it is my job to pass on knowledge to students, their questions and ideas also teach me in return. Many of my research projects began with a question asked in class.Dr Renae Barker

Supervisor opportunities

Dr Renae Barker has been supervising UWA Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) candidates since 2017 and has exercised her supervision during a student dissertation on the impact of honour cultures, honour discourses and female chastity on domestic violence in Pakistani and Brazilian women in Australia. Dr Barker welcomes new PhD candidates, particularly on topics related to state and church in Australia or freedom of religion and minorities.

Contact Dr Renae Barker

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Research repository

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