LAWS3047/JURD7461 Australian Bills of Rights and the Protection of Human Rights

Lecturer: Rosalind Dixon

Why does this subject interest you?
The course deals with issues of fundamental rights, but also politics and comparative constitutional law. It provides a wonderful opportunity to learn more about other countries’ systems, but also to reflect on our own constitutional system in doing so.

Do you have any advice to students who are interested in taking this course?
Take them! They are fun, challenging and directly relevant to public law practice and government lawyering.

What is the best aspect of the course?
The class involves a video-debate with post-grad students studying comparative human rights at Oxford.

Student: Kara Grimsley

Please give us a brief overview of the main topics studied in the course
The course gives a general introduction to the structures and principles that underpin significant bills of rights around the world to develop an understanding of how the two Australian state Bills of Rights (the Victoria and ACT Charters) can be interpreted. The course draws upon comparative and constitutional law to build this understanding. The main topics are: Freedom of Expression and Racial Vilification, GLBT Rights and adoption, equality and affirmative action, freedom of religion, abortion and reproductive rights.

What were the course assessments and your thoughts about them?
The assessment structure includes class participation (20%) and an 8-hour exam problem style question with a 2500 word limit (80%).  You can do the exam anytime between the end of the teaching portion of the course and the end of the summer exam period. However once you start, you have 8 hours to finish it and must self-impose exam style conditions on yourself. The 8-hour exam is something I’ve never experienced before and was daunting but ultimately the best assessment I’ve done. It is really surprising how quickly the time goes and how little time 8 hours feels like. I spent about 1.5 to 2 hours thinking about the question and planning and the remaining time writing it with a quick edit at the end (mostly for grammar and spelling). It may sounds exhausting but the benefit is that you have the time you don’t usually have in a 3-hour exam to really think about what you want to write – but no time to procrastinate and/or over think the question.

What did you like about the course?
The course was fantastic validation that human rights are not only important and socially just, but they are also incredibly legally interesting. Professor Rosalind Dixon’s teaching style is the best that I have experienced in both my undergraduate and JD classes. She is clearly an expert in the field and has an immense depth of knowledge, understanding and critical insight into the area. She has the ability to explain complex ideas in a logical manner but her teaching style is also very interactive and fairly rigorous as she challenges students to critically analyse concepts. I felt like I finished the class with not only a broad understanding of human rights law but also with far greater legal reasoning skills.

What could be improved?
For some of the early classes the reading can be a bit too much or a little unclear, so it’s best email to Professor Dixon to clarify if you are unsure.