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LAWS104 Foundations of Law and Legal Research , LAWS107 Introduction to Australian Public Law

Teaching organisation

4 hours per week for twelve weeks or equivalent.

Unit rationale, description and aim

The Rule of Law, and access to legal advice, are the basis of free, democratic, and just societies which promote personal dignity, thriving communities, and the Common Good. Law graduates working in legal practice, in business, in government, and in the community play an essential role in promoting and upholding the Rule of Law in Australia and across the world. The Bachelor of Laws degree is an accredited degree for admission as a legal practitioner in Australia.

This level four unit contributes to the development of:

  • advanced theoretical and technical knowledge in the field of Constitutional Law;
  • advanced, cognitive, technical and communication skills and the ability to apply these to complex legal problems in a professional context;
  • advanced research and writing skills. 

Constitutional Law is concerned with the content and elaboration of the law relating to the Australian Constitution. This unit will be structured upon an understanding of the way in which the Constitution frames the allocation of public power. Pursuant to that theme the unit is divided into four parts. The first relates to federalism. Federalism is concerned with the balance of power established by the Constitution between the Commonwealth and the States. The second relates to the exercise of power. In so doing it considers the most important powers conferred by the Constitution upon the Commonwealth Government and their exercise. The third relates to the separation of power. This part takes a close look at the way in which the Constitution structures the relationships between the Federal Parliament, the Executive Government and the Judiciary. The fourth relates to the limitation of Commonwealth power. In this segment, the express and implied rights contained in the Constitution are described and analysed. In addition to this, State Constitutions will also briefly be considered. 

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Describe and critically analyse the content of the Australian Constitution. (GA3, GA4, GA5) 

LO2 - Describe and practically apply the law of the Constitution as it relates to the core concepts of federalism, parliamentary sovereignty, the separation of powers, and constitutional rights. (GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8) 

LO3 -Describe and practically apply Constitutional law as it applies to contemporary legal issues and problems. (GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8).  

LO4 -Critically analyse the strengths and weaknesses of Australia’s constitutional system of government. (GA5, GA6, GA8) 

Graduate attributes

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA6 - solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 


Topics will include: 

  1. An Introduction to Australian Constitutional Law
  2. Constitutional Interpretation
  3. The Parliament 
  4. The Process of Characterisation
  5. The Judiciary
  6. The Executive
  7. The Separation of Powers
  8. Financial and Economic Powers
  9. External Affairs and Extraterritoriality 
  10. Inconsistency and Government Immunity 
  11. Constitutional Rights and Freedoms 

This content reflects the academic areas of knowledge required for accreditation, Schedule 1, Legal Profession Admission Rules 2015.  

  1. State constitutions and constitutional systems
  2. The Commonwealth Constitution and constitutional system
  3. The constitution and operation of the legislature, executive and judiciary
  4. The relationship between the different institutions of government and the separation of powers
  5. The relationship between the different levels of government,

or topics of such breadth and depth as to satisfy the following guidelines:

The topics should include knowledge of the major principles of both the relevant State or Territory Constitution and the Commonwealth Constitution, including the relations between the different Commonwealth and State or Territory laws. A general knowledge of the scope of both State or Territory and Commonwealth Constitutions is required, although the topics will differ in the depth of treatment of specific heads of power, particularly in the Commonwealth sphere.

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

4  hours per week over 12 weeks or equivalent.   


Students should anticipate undertaking 150 hours of study for this unit, including class attendance, readings and assignment preparation. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

In order to pass this unit, you are required to attain an overall score of at least 50. You are required to undertake Communication and Engagement, a Research Essay and a Final Examination. The assessment tasks for this unit are designed to assess knowledge, skills and understanding in a specialist area of law required for accreditation. 

The assessment tasks for this unit are designed to demonstrate achievement of each of the learning outcomes listed. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Communication and Engagement: Students are required to participate in a minimum of 8 out of 12 skills-based tutorials, in recognition that the development of skills in locating, referencing and analysing research materials is assisted by attendance and participation in weekly tutorials. A rubric will be utilised to assess students. Should a student fail to achieve the minimum participation requirements due to illness and/or personal circumstances beyond their control, an alternative assessment may be negotiated with the National Lecturer in Charge


LO1, LO2, LO3 

GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8, GA9 

Research Essay 


LO1, LO2, LO3 

GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8, GA9 

Final Examination: 


LO1, LO2, LO3 

GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8, GA9 

Representative texts and references

Required text: 

Joseph S. and Castan M. Federal Constitutional Law: A Contemporary View, Fourth Edition, Thomson Reuters, 2014. 

Recommended Text: 

Meagher D. Simpson A. Stellios J. and Wheeler F. Hanks, Australian Constitutional Law, Materials and Commentary, 10th Edition, Lexis Nexis, 2016.  

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