Equality and Discrimination Law

Subject LAWS50068 (2011)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2011.

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 5 (Graduate/Postgraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject is not offered in 2011.

Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 36 hours.
Total Time Commitment: 144 hours.
Prerequisites: LAWS50023 Legal Method and Reasoning; LAWS50024 Principles of Public Law; LAWS50025 Torts; LAWS50026 Obligations; LAWS50027 Dispute Resolution; LAWS50028 Constitutional Law.
Corequisites: None.
Recommended Background Knowledge: None.
Non Allowed Subjects: None.
Core Participation Requirements:

The Melbourne Law School welcomes applications from students with disabilities. It is University and Law School policy to take all reasonable steps to enable the participation of students with disabilities, and reasonable adjustments will be made to enhance a student’s participation in the School’s programs.

The inherent academic requirements for the study in the Melbourne Law School are:

  1. The ability to attend classes and actively engage in the analysis of complex materials and debate;
  2. The ability to read, analyse and comprehend complex written legal materials and complex interdisciplinary materials;
  3. The ability to clearly and independently communicate in writing a knowledge and application of legal principles and interdisciplinary materials and critically evaluate these;
  4. The ability to clearly and independently communicate orally a knowledge and application of legal principles and interdisciplinary materials and critically evaluate these;
  5. The ability to work independently and as a part of a group;
  6. The ability to present orally and in writing legal analysis to a professional standard.

Students must possess behavioural and social attributes that enable them to participate in a complex learning environment. Students are required to take responsibility for their own participation and learning. They also contribute to the learning of other students in collaborative learning environments, demonstrating interpersonal skills and an understanding of the needs of other students. Assessment may include the outcomes of tasks completed in collaboration with other students.

Students who feel their disability will prevent them from participating in tasks involving these inherent academic requirements are encouraged to contact the Disability Liaison Unit: http://www.services.unimelb.edu.au/disability/.


Melbourne Law School Student Centre
Email: law-studentcentre@unimelb.edu.au
Tel: +61 3 8344 4475
Subject Overview:

Student Placements
A limited number of placements (probably from 4 to 8) will be arranged for students enrolled in this subject. The placements will be with human rights organisations involved in discrimination law or that work with disadvantaged minorities. Only a few positions in the placement will be offered, as this depends on agencies making placements and supervision available. A selection process will occur before semester begins. Criteria for selection will include demonstrated interest based on background and experience, capacity to contribute to the organisation’s work, and willingness to commit the required time. Placements will involve attendance at the organisation’s office for 6 to 10 days during the semester and completion of an assignment relevant to that organisation’s work. Interested students should ensure that they check the subject website for information on the selection process a month or so before the semester begins. An e-mail inviting application will be sent to all students enrolled for the subject a few weeks before semester commences.

This subject examines the challenges of using law to prevent discrimination, and critically examines the contribution of anti-discrimination law to reducing inequality. The intellectual background includes the Australian social context, the ideas of equality and discrimination, and theories about their causes and remedies from a number of perspectives. This subject focuses on domestic equality law, in particular Australian anti-discrimination and human rights laws, which draw on international human rights laws as a source of power and guidance. Both international and domestic human rights law, and constitutional law, provide the legal context. Sex discrimination will be used as the main vehicle for studying Australian state and federal anti-discrimination and equality laws, but discrimination on grounds including race, disability and sexuality will be considered to a lesser extent. (The research paper provides an opportunity for students with a strong interest in these or other areas, such as age, political or religious belief etc. to study these areas in more detail). The subject considers how effective law has been in changing social practices and eliminating discrimination, and whether alternative approaches offer better prospects.


On completion of this subject, students should:

Have developed an understanding of:

  • The social context of inequality and discrimination in Australia;
  • The philosophical and legal concepts of equality and discrimination;
  • The legal response to disadvantage and discrimination in Australia and other countries, including relevant human rights law;
  • The structure, purpose and application of anti-discrimination legislation; and
  • The factors that affect or limit the ability of the law to achieve its aims.

A student should be able to draw on this understanding and knowledge to critically analyse and evaluate:

  • The concepts of equality, and discrimination, and how the law incorporates them;
  • The interpretations and application of the law to discrimination;
  • Alternative legal and other approaches to the reduction of discrimination, such as positive action; and
  • The capacity and limits of law as a mechanism of social change.

1. Reflective essay of 1,500 words, 20% (due week 9)



Final examination of two hours, 80%


Research essay of 5,000 words, 80% (due during the exam period).

3. Students undertaking a placement:

  • Assessment of placement performance (by external supervisor in consultation with the subject coordinator) 20% and
  • Assignment (on a topic of value to the placement organisation) 2,500 words, 40% and
  • Final 1-hour examination, 40%.
Prescribed Texts:
  • Australian Anti-Discrimination Law: Text, Cases and Materials, Neil Rees, Katherine Lindsay, Simon Rice (Federation Press, 2008);
  • Printed materials will be available from the Melbourne Law School.
Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:

On completion of the subject, students should have developed the following generic skills:

Thinking skills

  • Understand the complexities inherent in the concepts of equality and discrimination;
  • Develop sensitivity to the experiences and ideas of people from very different backgrounds to their own, including across cultures, gender, sexuality, age and other classifications;
  • Value the ability to learn from encountering very different perspectives.

Case reading and analysis

  • Read complex cases with a special focus on statutory interpretation and the purposive interpretation of legislation.

Reading and interpreting legislation

  • Read, interpret and analyse statutes, and understand the significance of variations in approaches in different jurisdictions.

Critical and legal analysis and problem solving

  • Critically analyse the approach of the courts and decision-makers to the interpretation of anti-discrimination laws, including the nature of the arguments that courts accept and reject;
  • The relationship between legal and social thought and analysis;
  • Examining the impact of practical effects of law as well as doctrinal outcomes of legal decisions.

Legal research and writing skills (Students who complete a research paper)

  • Locating resources for research in relation to equality and discrimination and anti-discrimination law;
  • Ability to use legislation, case law and other materials as part of legal analysis;
  • Present and evaluate a well structured and supported legal argument.

Oral communication skills through seminar participation and class presentation on research in progress

Practical workplace skills for students undertaking a placement

  • Ability to work cooperatively in a human rights organisation;
  • Ability to undertake practical research of value to that organisation;
  • Learning through observation of the work of the organisation where the placement occurs;
  • Manage their time in order to contribute in an office environment;
  • Other work-place based skills such as communication and office organisation.

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