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  • Term Mode
  • Semester 1Online Scheduled



Unit rationale, description and aim

This unit introduces students to the theory and practice of international human rights. It incorporates elements of law, politics, history and philosophy. 

This unit explores three main themes, which are interwoven through the topics rather than examined discreetly. First, the unit considers the historical development and philosophical foundations of human rights and the current systems established to protect them at the international, regional and domestic level. It particularly focuses on the United Nations and key international human rights treaties. Second, it considers international, regional and domestic mechanisms for enforcing human rights obligations, and assesses their effectiveness. Third, the unit examines major contemporary human rights case studies, including the rights of refugees, Indigenous people and women and children. The focus is on Australia’s compliance with international standards in these areas. The unit aims to develop students’ ability to analyses current human rights systems and issues critically and from a variety of perspectives. 

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 fundamental concepts and theories relating to the human rights legal institutions
LO2Explain how concepts and theories informed the development of human rights legal institutions, and their operation
LO3Illustrate understanding of human rights law concepts and theories through the consideration of case studies


Topics will include:

. Historical and philosophical development of human rights, including religious contributions.

. The UN system – major human rights bodies and treaties

. International law – what are treaties, states, monism/dualism

. Regional human rights systems 

. Australia – national human rights system

. The United Nations Human Rights Committee 

. Human rights charters in Australia

. Protecting human rights: Law and Activism 

. Human Rights and cultural difference 

. Human Rights – critiques and challenges

. Preparing a UN Human Rights Communication against Australia

. Does Australia honour its international human rights obligations?

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 principles and theory) that (in combination with learning from other units) bridges the gap between theory and practice. Thus, 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. Through direct interaction between students and teachers, students active, engaged exploration of the foundational knowledge they acquire supports its assimilation in the form of comprehension of concepts and theory. 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

This unit is 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.

First, a basic content knowledge assessment (e.g. via a quiz).

Second, a case-study based assessment that challenges students to explain how particular principles are applied by the legal institutions that are the central focus of the course.

Third, an assessment requiring longer answers from students that extends the second assessment tasks. For example: based on three case-studies, students would be asked to (a) List the fundamental concepts and institutions at play (b) explain how these explain/illuminate the human rights principles shown, and finally, to highlight the differences and similarities between the ways the concepts and theories apply across the three case studies.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning Outcomes

Multiple choice online quiz: Requires students to demonstrate their knowledge of fundamental human rights legal institutions.



Case-study based short answer paper, focusing on understanding of particular human rights legal institutions applying particular human rights, from a restricted range of readings.


LO1, LO2

Extended written comparison of three case studies.: This assessment requires students to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of human rights institutions and principles, as manifested in authentic case-based scenarios.


LO1, LO2, LO3

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