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Mr Matthew Psycharis's picture


Education CV

BA (First Class Honours) (Melb), JD (First Class Honours) (Melb), LLM (First Class) (Cantab), PhD Canditdate (Cantab)

Supervisor in Tripos Constitutional Law, Robinson College, 2020-2021

PhD Candidate, University of Cambridge, 2019-2022

  • W M Tapp Scholarship
  • Cambridge Australia Caius Scholarship
  • Executive Committee Member - Cambridge Pro Bono Project

Master of Law (First Class), University of Cambridge, 2015-2016

  • St Edmund's College Prize for Law
  • Melbourne Global Grant Scholarship
  • Research assistant to Dr Michael Waibel, Lauterpacht Centre for International Law
  • Masters dissertation on uses of history in legal argument by 16th century English lawyers (supervised by Professor David Ibbetson, and awarded First Class)

Juris Doctor (First Class Honours), University of Melbourne, 2013-2015

  • Sir Zelman Cowen Scholarship
  • Sir George Paton Prize for Internal Investment Law
  • Ruth Campbell-Betty Hayes Prize for Legal Research (thesis on 16th century English legal history)
  • Jessie Leggatt Scholarship for European Civil Law / Roman Law
  • General Member of Editorial Board, Melbourne University Law Review

Bachelor of Arts (First Class Honours), University of Melbourne, 2010-2012

  • Australian National Scholarship
  • J A Aird Memorial Prize for Public Policy Research
  • Dean's Honours List - 2010, 2011, 2012

Before Cambridge:  

Before coming to Cambridge, Matthew worked as an Associate at the Australian firm Allens, practising in general commercial litigation.  He advised on a wide range of business disputes and regulatory investigations.  In a pro bono capacity, he instructed in Australian High Court proceedings concerning civil and LGBTI rights, as well as advising peak human rights bodies on issues concerning offshore refugee detention, and the drafting of anti-discrimination legislation.  In 2018, Matthew spent a year working as the Associate (judicial assistant) to the Honourable Justice Riordan of the Supreme Court of Victoria.  Before coming to the law, Matthew trained as an economist and worked at the Victorian Department of Treasury and Finance in 2012.  

Fields of research

  • UK and Australian public law
  • History of the constitutions of the UK and Australia, and modes of constitutional change
  • History of referendums
  • Democratic and civil rights
  • Political theory and constituent power
  • Scottish independence referendums


Understanding advisory referendums, and where they fit within our constitution


In the wake of the 2016 Brexit referendum, much has been written on the use (or abuse) of advisory referendums on plainly 'constitutional' issues.  These might be referendums on secession, the transfer of legislative powers, devolution, or voting reform.  Early understandings are beginning to form on how these exercises are to be understood by the law (versus a purely political understanding), and how the common law constitution might circumscribe their use.  Indicative of this, the issue of ‘constitutional’ referendums has been considered by the House of Lords Constitution Committee. 

However, very little has been written about advisory referendums which are not on constitutional questions.  Australia’s 2017 ‘plebisurvey’ on LGBTI civil rights, earlier votes on pub opening hours or business trading times, and New Zealand’s upcoming referendum on euthanasia, are all examples of public votes on what are classically understood to be ordinary policy issues.  Matthew’s research focusses on how this species of referendum – the ‘policy referendum’ – is to be understood, and where such exercises fit within the Westminster constitutional architecture.  The basic question addressed is whether the law has anything to say, or ought to have anything to say, about the use (or abuse) of popular votes of this kind, and the potentially hidden role these votes might play in constitutional change. 

His research draws on UK and Australian public law, adminsitrative rights and remedies, questions of standing and public interest litigation, and more theoretical understandings of political power and the constitutuent sovereign.  


Professor Alison Young

Representative Publications

Authored chapter (publication pending, 2020):  ‘Sixteenth-Century Approaches to Legal History’, in A Whiting and A O’Connell (eds), Legal History Matters (Working Title), Melbourne University Press

Authored:  ‘Wilkie & Ors v The Commonwealth & Ors: Case Note and Commentary’ (2017) (September) Human Rights Law Centre: Case Summaries

Authored: ‘Meeting More’s Challenge: How the Magna Carta Helped Build a Robust Lex Anglicana’ (2016) 4 Journal of the Judicial College of Victoria 105

Acknowledged as researcher:  K Liddell and M Waibel, ‘Fair and Equitable Treatment and Judicial Patent Decisions’ (2016) 19 Journal of International Economic Law 145

Start Date

Oct 2019

End date

Jun 2022