Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Unit rationale, description and aim

Indigenous, or First Peoples, have experienced systematic abuse of human rights by colonisers the world over. Many countries, in particular Australia, have been slow to address historic abuses and commit to truth and treaty. Reconciliation implies a prior relationship, which is being formalised by Australian States by way of treaty and reconciliation initiatives, and at the federal level, the Voice to Parliament. Nations and international institutions also have a significant role in advancing healing.

This unit will address human rights from an Indigenous perspective and Indigenous rights from a human rights perspective. The aim of the unit is to equip human rights graduates with an appreciation of the size and scope of the challenges our world and this country faces to realise human rights for Indigenous peoples, including Indigenous Australians.

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 key themes and principles applicable to modern approaches to Indigenous human rights principles (GA1, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9)

LO2 - Evaluate contemporary responses to the realization of Indigenous human rights (GA1, GA4, GA5, GA8)

LO3 - Apply contemporary principles to case studies (GA1, GA8, GA9)

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

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

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. Statist Conceptions of Rights and the Rights of Peoples
  2. Alternative Approaches and the Rise of Indigenous Rights in International Law
  3. International Protections Against Racial Discrimination
  4. Indigenous Self-Determination
  5. The Terrible History of Colonisation
  6. Systematic Abuses of First Nations Rights in Australia
  7. Contemporary Laws and Policies Addressing the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  8. International Comparisons
  9. Contemporary Activism and Political Movements
  10. Reform

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit comprises 150 hours of study in total. It will be taught over a 12 week semester, with one 2-hour lecture followed by a 1-hour tutorial each week or ACU Online 10 week asynchronous delivery mode. Other study components might include on-line webinars, podcasts, readings, discussion forums etc. The balance of the hours is comprised of private study.

Following consultations with Indigenous academics and members of State Parole Boards, the strategy employed in this unit involves students’ active participation in practical learning and assessments that focus on real-world problems and challenges. In these ways the unit seeks to help students to develop their problem solving, decision making and investigative skills with regard to issues of human rights within criminal justice. This unit engages students in active learning activities, such as reading, writing, discussion and problem-solving to promote analysis, synthesis and evaluation of class content. Students will also work collaboratively in groups to prepare and deliver a Parole Hearing Simulation. Collaborative learning is an important component of active learning and sits within a community of inquiry theoretical framework. It provides opportunities for a group of individuals to collaborate in purposeful critical discourse and reflection to construct personal meaning and mutual understanding.

ACU Online

This unit uses an active learning approach to support students in the exploration of knowledge essential to the discipline. Students are provided with choice and variety in how they learn. Students are encouraged to contribute to asynchronous weekly discussions. Active learning opportunities provide students with opportunities to practice and apply their learning in situations similar to their future professions. Activities encourage students to bring their own examples to demonstrate understanding, application and engage constructively with their peers. Students receive regular and timely feedback on their learning, which includes information on their progress. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

The proposed assessment tasks in this unit comprise a strategy that is explicitly created to support achievement of, and determination of, the unit Learning Outcomes. They do this through integration with the learning and teaching strategy above.

Subject to further revision, it is proposed that this unit be assessed by three assignments: a short written task focused on the requisite content knowledge, a research assignment, and a final examination.

1. Short Written Task. Students will be required to describe key themes relating to an aspect of Indigenous human rights. This may take the form of a short answer test, in-class ‘minute paper’ or other equivalent task.

2. Research Essay. This assessment requires students to critically evaluate societal responses illustrated by the current state of corrections law. The research essay will allow students to engage with the scholarship on specific approaches to research and write a substantial essay that responds to a question that engages with key issues within the human rights of Indigenous people.

3. Case Study Application of International Law. In exam conditions, students will complete a complex problem involving the application of international principles of Indigenous rights. This will involve a written submission.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Short Written Task: This assessment builds knowledge around the law, policy and practice of Indigenous rights.



GA1, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9

Research Essay: This assessment develops skills around evaluating societal responses to those who are incarcerated, including relevant domestic and international frameworks.



GA1, GA4, GA5, GA8

In exam conditions, students will complete a complex problem involving the application of international principles of Indigenous rights. This will involve a written submission.



GA1, GA8, GA9

Representative texts and references

A list of required readings will be found in the Study Guide, which will be available for download on the unit website prior to the beginning of the teaching semester. It is expected that all required readings for a topic will be completed before the corresponding tutorial. These readings may include book chapters, journal articles and government reports.

A list of additional readings may also be uploaded periodically on the unit website. While these readings are not compulsory, they may assist in furthering your understanding of topics and are recommended.

James Crawford, ed., The Rights of Peoples, Clarendon Press.

United Nations, United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Irene Watson, Aboriginal Peoples, Colonialism and International Law: Raw Law (Routledge, 2014)

Inala Cooper and Shannan Dodson, ‘Marrul (Changing Season)’ in Paula Gerber and Melissa Castan (eds.) Critical Perspectives on Human Rights Law in Australia (Thomson Reuters, Sydney, 2021) 350

Heather McRae and Garth Nettheim, Indigenous Legal Issues: Commentary and Materials (Thomson Reuters, 2003) Chapter 12 International Law

Larissa Behrendt, Chris Cunneen, Terri Libesman and Nicole Watson, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Relations (2nd ed, Oxford University Press, 2018)

Garth Nettheim, Indigenous Rights, Human Rights and Australia (Australian Studies Centre, 1987)

S. James Anaya, Indigenous Peoples in International Law (2nd ed, Oxford University Press, 2004)

Antony Anghie, and Chimni, B, ‘Third World Approaches to International Law and Individual Responsibility in Internal Conflicts’ (2003) 2(1) Chinese Journal of International Law 77.

Kishaya Delaney, Amy Maguire and Fiona McGaughey, ‘Australia’s Commitment to ‘Advance the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples around the Globe’ on the United National Human Rights Council’ (2020) 41(2) Adelaide Law Review 363.

Darryl Cronin, ‘Trapped by history: democracy, human rights and justice for indigenous people in Australia’ (2017) 23(2) Australian Journal of Human Rights 220.

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