Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Unit rationale, description and aim

Australia is a signatory to a substantial number of international human rights treaties and protocols. Statutory human rights provisions in a number of Australia’s jurisdictions are supplemented by common law protection of human rights. The purpose of this subject is to ensure students have a high-level understanding of Australian human rights law and policies, and the skills to deploy that knowledge in practical contexts.

The skills and knowledge gained in this unit will be required by a human rights practitioner working in any Australian jurisdiction, particularly within the public service, but increasingly within the corporate world where human rights compliance is taken increasingly seriously.

The aim of this unit is to provide you with the knowledge and insights into contemporary Australian human rights law, its practice and policy at the federal and state levels.

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 the legal and institutional framework of human rights protection in Australia (GA5, GA8, GA9)

LO2 - Apply human rights principles to challenging situations (GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9)

LO3 - Reflect critically on Australian human rights law, policy and practice (GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9)

Graduate attributes

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. Constitutional context of Australian human rights
  2. Constitutional human rights protections
  3. Jurisdictional issues
  4. State and Territory human rights projections
  5. Federal (limited) protections
  6. Making a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission
  7. A survey of AHRC jurisprudence
  8. Other institutional bodies that protect human rights
  9. Human rights advocacy in Australia
  10. Human rights work in Australia

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. Other study components might include on-line webinars, podcasts, readings, discussion forums etc. The balance of the hours is comprised of private study. The strategy is to encourage students to actively engage with unit content and their peers; to provide a clear link between lecture content and tutorial practicum to develop an authentic, case- based understanding of human rights law and policy its practical application. The learning and teaching strategy extends from within this unit, to integrate with other units in the course. Within an integrated learning framework, lectures will provide core content relating to the topics identified above and begin a process of active, engaged, exploration, which will be deepened by detailed explanation and further investigation in tutorials. Students are then encouraged to test that evolving understanding by applying it to factual situations, to produce solutions supported by legal authorities and arguments; and to reflect on their learning. Each component is intended to build on knowledge, understanding and skills to progressively scaffold student learning. The online learning platform used in this unit provides multiple preparatory and practice opportunities to guide in-class and out-of-class study. Online learning assistance in the form of learning resources, notices, assessment information (including online submission, marking and return of results/feedback), is student focused, affording greater accessibility and flexibility to the learning experience.

Assessment strategy and rationale

It is proposed that this unit be assessed by three assignments used deliberately as an integral part of the learning process to guide and scaffold learning, as well as to determine learning outcomes. Each assessment will build on and develop the knowledge and skills gained in the previous assessments. The first assessment will be basic content knowledge assessment, such as quizzes, that will be embedded in the learning materials to support directed learning. The second assessment will be a case-study based assessment, where students are asked to identify which rules and principles of IHL may apply to a contemporary conflict or incident. The third assessment will ask students to build on the second assessment by writing a report which applies the identified rules to the conflict/incident, assesses the lawfulness of the conflict/incident according to these rules, and comments on any limitations or problems within these rules. In this way, students will be guided through cumulative assessment and directed feedback to learn how to locate and identify the rules of IHL, to apply them to practical situations and cases, and to reflect critically on their content.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Multiple choice online quiz: Requires students to demonstrate their knowledge of Australian human rights law and policy.



GA5, GA8, GA9

Case Study Report No 1: students will be assigned a case or incident that raises questions of Australian human rights law and policy; identify relevant principles and policies that may apply to the incident; and develop solutions.  


LO1, LO2

GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9

Case Study Report: This assessment requires students to use the sources and laws to produce a report that analyses the lawfulness of an incident and reflects critically on the Australian human rights law and policy.


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9

Representative texts and references

Paula Gerber and Melissa Castan, eds., Critical Perspectives on Human Rights Law in Australia, Vol 1 (Thomson Reuters, 2021).

Mirko Bagaric, Peter Faris and Theo Alexander, Australian Human Rights Law (CCH Australia, 2011)

Philip Lynch, ‘Harmonising international human rights law and domestic law and policy: the establishment and role of the Human Rights Law Resource Centre’ (2006) 7(1) Melbourne Journal of International Law 225.

David Kinley, Human rights in Australian law: principles, practice and potential (Federation Press, 1998)

Simone Cusack and Cecilia Riebl, International human rights law in Australian courts: a role for amici curiae and interveners (2006) 31(3) Alternative Law Journal 122.

Rosalind Croucher, ‘Re-imagining law reform: Michael Kirby’s vision, human rights and the Australian Law Reform Commission in the 21st century’ (2014) 17(17) Southern Cross University Law Review 31.

Katharine Gelber, ‘The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: protection of human rights in Australia’ (2019) 73(4) Australian Journal of International Affairs 313.

Caroline Fleay, Australia and Human Rights: Situating the Howard Government (Cambridge Scholars, 2010)

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia and Human Rights: An Overview (4th ed)

Nick O’Neill and Robin Handley, Retreat from Injustice – Human Rights in Australian Law (Federation Press, 1993)

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