Hilary Charlesworth was educated at the University of Melbourne and Harvard Law School. She is, from 2016, a Melbourne Laureate Professor at Melbourne Law School and Distinguished Professor and Director of the Centre for International Governance and Justice in the Regulatory Institutions Network at the Australian National University. She has held visiting appointments at United States and European universities. She held an ARC Federation Fellowship from 2005-2010 and an ARC Laureate Fellowship (2010-2015).
She was President of the Australian and New Zealand Society of International Law (1997-2001). She is on the editorial boards of a number of international law journals and served as Co-Editor of the Australian Yearbook of International Law from1996-2006 and a member of the Board of Editors of the American Journal of International Law 1999-2009. She was joint winner of the American Society of International Law’s 2006 Goler T Butcher Medal in recognition of ‘outstanding contributions to the development or effective realization of international human rights law’ . She was elected to the Institut de Droit International in 2011.
She has worked with various non-governmental human rights organisations on ways to implement international human rights standards and was chair of the Australian Capital Territory government's inquiry into an ACT bill of rights, which led to the adoption of the ACT Human Rights Act 2004. She was appointed judge ad hoc of the International Court of Justice in 2011 for the Whaling in the Antarctic case, and in 2019 as a judge ad hoc for a case between Guyana and Venezuela.