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LAWS104 Foundations of Law and Legal Research

Teaching organisation

4 hours per week for twelve weeks or equivalent.

Unit rationale, description and aim

This unit examines the philosophical basis of human rights and the various ways in which human rights are and could be protected in Australian jurisdictions under the common law, by statute, and constitutionally. It examines the case for and against a Human Rights Act or some form of bill of rights in the Australian Constitution. The unit includes an examination of contested issues and an investigation of the link between law and public policy.

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.

Learning Outcome NumberLearning Outcome Description
LO1Describe and critically evaluate the concept and theory of human rights and the protection they are afforded in Australia by the common law, statute and the Australian Constitution
LO2Apply the law of human rights to factual situations and thereby advise clients and others of their rights and responsibilities in those situations
LO3Compare and contrast how the inclusion of ‘human rights’ language assists or hinders the development of laws and policies which enhance human dignity and the common good


Topics will include: 

  •  Community perceptions of human rights 
  • The philosophical basis for human rights and responsibilities 
  • An historical overview of the ‘bill of rights’ debate in Australia 
  • The case for and against a Human Rights Act in each jurisdiction 
  • The relevance of international law and UN instruments 
  • Freedom of religion and freedom of conscience 


Topics will also include a selection of the following: 

  • Human rights, abortion and the right to choose 
  • Same sex marriage 
  • Euthanasia and the right to die 
  • Anti-discrimination law generally 
  • The human rights of Indigenous Peoples 
  • The human rights of asylum seekers 
  • Counter-Terrorism laws and human rights 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

MODE: Multimode Intensive. 

ATTENDANCE PATTERN: Workshops; online; intensive 

You will be required to do preparatory reading and activities prior to the first class. 

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

This unit will be taught as a 2-hour lecture followed by a 2-hour tutorial. Our 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 skills that bridge the gap between theory and practice. Through direct interaction between students and teachers, students are encouraged to engage in critical analysis of the foundational knowledge they acquire; to test that knowledge by applying it to factual situations; to produce solutions supported by legal authorities and arguments; and to reflect on their learning. 

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

In order to pass this unit, you are required to: complete all assessment tasks.  

The assessment tasks for this unit are designed for you to demonstrate your achievement of each learning outcome. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning Outcomes

Take Home Exam 

The Take Home Exam requires students to answer hypothetical problem(s) and essay question(s) that will be based on the material presented during the intensive week. It is designed to assess your ability to understand the philosophical basis for ‘human rights’ language, and critically evaluate the law applicable in a particular situation. 


LO1, LO2

Research Assignment 

The purpose of this assignment is to develop your capacity to think and write about the complexity of any change in public policy in relation to one particular issue of your choice where there is a conflict of rights and interests. 



Representative texts and references

Required text(s) 

McBeth A. Nolan J. and Rice S. The International Law of Human Rights, Oxford University Press, Second Edition, 2017 (ILHR), Chapter 9  

Expert Panel Report, Religious Freedom Review (2018) Available at: 

Uluru Statement from the Heart (2017) Available at:  

Boas, Gideon; Chifflet, Pascale, ‘Suspected War Criminals in Australia: Law and Policy’ (2016) 40(1) Melbourne University Law Review 46 


Recommended references 

National Human Rights Consultation Committee, Parliament of Australia, Human Rights Consultation Committee Report (2009)  

Brennan, Frank, Maintaining A Convinced and Pondered Trust (ATF Theology, 2015)  

Finnis, John, Human Rights and the Common Good (Oxford University Press, 2011)  

Williams, George and David Hume, Human Rights under the Australian Constitution (Oxford University Press, 2nd ed, 2013) 


Further references  

Australian Law Reform Commission, Traditional Rights and Freedoms — Encroachments by Commonwealth Laws (2016)  

Carter v Canada 2015 SCC 5  

R (Nicklinson) v Ministry of Justice [2014] UKSC 38  

Brennan, Frank, No Small Change (University of Queensland Press, 2015)  

Freeman, Damien and Shireen Morris, The Forgotten People (Melbourne University Press, 2016)  

Davis, Megan and Marcia Langton, It’s Our Country (Melbourne University Press, 2016) 

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