Law and Justice
What will I study?
Gain an understanding of the political, cultural, socio-economic and historical practices of law and of justice from an Australian and international perspective. Examine the capacity and power of law to deliver justice across a range of social, historical, cultural and political contexts.
Your course structure
The Bachelor of Arts requires the successful completion of 24 subjects (300-points), including at least one major. Most students study eight subjects each year (usually four subjects in each semester) for three years full-time, or the part-time equivalent.
Most Arts majors require 100 points of study (usually eight subjects) for attainment. The majority of Arts minors require 75 points of study (usually 6 subjects) for attainment. This means out of the 300 point program, you have the opportunity to achieve two majors in your course as well as a minor. You will also complete breadth studies and other complimentary Arts subjects.
Completing your minor
If you are taking Law and Justice as a minor, you must complete:
- One level 1 compulsory subject and one Arts Foundation subject (MULT10018 Power is recommended)
- One level 2 compulsory subject and one level 2 elective subject
- One level 3 compulsory subject and one level 3 elective subject
Breadth is a unique feature of the Melbourne curriculum. It gives you the chance to explore subjects outside of arts, developing new perspectives and learning to collaborate with others who have different strengths and interests — just as you will in your future career.
Some of our students use breadth to explore creative interests or topics they have always been curious about. Others used breadth to improve their career prospects by complementing their major with a language, communication skills or business expertise.
Explore this minor
Explore the subjects you could choose as part of this minor.
Complete this subject.
- Law in Society 12.5 pts
Law in Society introduces students to theories, concepts, forms and practices of law in contemporary Australian society. It will provide a foundation both for socio-legal studies subjects in later years and for subjects in disciplines such as politics, criminology and law. In preparing students to engage critically with law, the subject looks at the ways that "harm" is constructed as a legal category. It encourages students to ask who is able to name something as either harmful, or not worthy of state intervention, and how this capacity to name effects socio-political relations. To develop this analysis, the subject discusses the norms that underpin the capacity to name particular practices as harmful, and engages critically with certain historical and current harms. Examples of such harms might include treachery, riot and disorder, terrorism, payback, the Northern Territory Emergency Response, torture, sado-masochistic sex acts, or female circumcision.
Complete one of these subjects.
- Identity 12.5 pts
Who we are and what we do is all tangled up in our identity. This subject considers how identities are constructed and maintained through mediated processes of self and other. The subject investigates the myriad demands and devices that figure in constructing our senses of self and other (including language, leisure, beliefs and embodied practices). By exploring identity in diverse contexts, across time and place, the subject maps varying conceptions of self and other and how these conceptions are constructed and maintained. A key focus is on how these mediated conceptions of self and other are translated into material practices of inclusion, exclusion, discrimination, violence and criminalisation.
- Language 12.5 pts
Language plays a central role in the central disciplinary areas in the humanities and social sciences. This subject gives students tools for thinking about language in a range of disciplines, including linguistics, history, sociology, politics, literary studies, anthropology, language studies, psychology and psychoanalytic theory. It shows how language can be analysed as a system, but also how language features centrally in politcal and social contexts: for example, in the processing of the claims of asylum seekers, in developing views of ethnicity, race and nation, and in colonialism; and in the construction of gendered and sexual identity. The role of language in the psyche, and the process of acquisition of languages in children and in adults, are also important topics. Knowing how to think about language, and familiarity with the main thinkers who have discussed language in a range of humanities and social science disciplines, provide an indispensable basis for study in any area of the Arts degree.
- Power 12.5 pts
The idea of power is a way to grasp the character of social relations. Investigating power can tell us about who is in control and who may benefit from such arrangements. Power can be a zero-sum game of domination. It can also be about people acting together to enact freedom. This subject examines the diverse and subtle ways power may be exercised. It considers how power operates in different domains such as markets, political systems and other social contexts. It also examines how power may be moderated by such things as regulation and human rights. A key aim is to explore how differing perspectives portray power relations and how issues of power distribution may be characterised and addressed.
- Reason 12.5 pts
Reason, many believe, is what makes us human. Until recently, most scientists and philosophers agreed that the ability to use the mind to analyse and interpret the world is something intrinsic to the nature of our species. Reason has a long and extraordinary history. We will explore a number of inter-related themes: the nature of reason from Ancient Greece to our contemporary world; the ever shifting relationship between reason and faith; reason's place in the development of scientific experimentation and thinking; shifting perspectives about the uses of Reason and, finally, how reason relates to theories of the mind, exploring the tensions between reason, the passions and the will.
Reason will take you on a journey from Plato's cave to the neuro-scientists' lab. We will visit revolutions in science, thinking and politics. We will explore the impact of some of the great philosophers of history, including Plato, Aristotle, Hume, Bentham, Coleridge, Marx, Nietzsche, Foucault and many more besides. By the end of this subject you will have a deep understanding of the importance of the idea of reason to human history and philosophy. You might, even, be able to answer the question: 'does reason exist?'
Reason is an Arts Foundation Subject and we will argue that understanding the history and philosophy of reason provides great insights into many aspects of the humanities from political philosophy to understanding history. We will, of course, be paying particular attention to the foundational skills that will help you successfully complete your Arts major: particularly critical thinking and argument development.
- First Peoples in a Global Context 12.5 pts
This subject will provide students with an introduction to the complexity, challenges and richness of Australian Indigenous life and cultures. Drawing on a wide range of diverse and dynamic guest lecturers, this subject gives students an opportunity to encounter Australian Indigenous knowledges, histories and experiences through interdisciplinary perspectives. Across three thematic blocks - Indigenous Knowledges, Social and Political Contexts and Representation/Self-Representation - this subject engages contemporary cultural and intellectual debate. Social and political contexts will be considered through engagement with specific issues and a focus on Indigenous cultural forms, which may include literature, music, fine arts, museum exhibitions and performance, will allow students to consider self-representation as a means by which to disrupt and expand perceptions of Aboriginality.
- Representation 12.5 pts
Humans grapple with representations of themselves and their contexts. They also like to imagine other possible worlds. We use words, language, images, sounds and movement to construct narratives and stories, large and small, about the trivial and the profound, the past and the future. These representations can help us to understand worlds but they can also create worlds for us. This subject explores how different genres such as speech, writing, translation, film, theatre and art generate representations of social life, imagination and the human condition. A key aim of the subject is to develop a critical appreciation of how language, images and embodied gestures are used to construct empowering and disempowering discourses.
- Legal Language 12.5 pts
This subject explores the cultural and institutional languages within which contemporary law is communicated, expressed and understood. Official and unofficial texts of law are situated in relation with literature, music and podcasts, photography and other visual arts, as well as architecture and urban design. Our examples are selected to provide a representative sample of the main areas of legal study, such as criminal law, contract and torts, equity, administrative and constitutional law, jurisprudence, treaty and native title. Throughout, the justice of the case will be evaluated.
In any given year, the teaching of the subject will select from the following topics amongst others:
- Reading the texts of law
- Law like literature
- Law as a culture of argument
- Equity, commerce and the language of conscience
- Legal place-making: courts and legal precincts
- Access to justice: standing before the law
- The reason and rhetoric of legal judgment
- Torts, neighbours and common law
- Encounters with indigenous laws
- Defamation, data association and search engines
- Giving and taking offence: offensive language laws
- Visual evidence and acoustic justice
- Criminal Law and Political Justice 12.5 pts
Criminal law has a central importance in criminology, since it is the criminal law which determines the legality or illegality of behaviours. This subject studies social and political dimensions of the criminal law as it governs institutional processes and the construction of criminality. The first section of the course covers differences in the ways that criminal law and criminology construct social issues as crime, with particular emphasis on the legal processes of criminal justice. The next sections provide substantive examinations of different aspects of the social and political dimensions of criminal law with particular emphasis on topical areas currently subject to contestation and change: such as the regulation of public space; and the ways in which the criminal law seeks to regulate the production of images.
- Law, Justice and Social Change 12.5 pts
Law, Justice and Social Change examines the ways in which law can be seen and used as both an instrument of positive social change and yet also as a means of confirming existing social arrangements and resisting social change. Through a series of case studies, it critically reflects on the key goals of law reform (such as access to justice and equality) and different ways of understanding what constitutes a just outcome. It looks at a selection of issues such as gender politics, ethnicity, race, disability, indigenous politics, class and economic struggles and sexual orientation and social dissent. There is also a strong practical component to the subject - students learn about the law reform process and choose a current law reform issue to consider in light of the issues discussed in the subject and interview a staff member from a community legal centre or government body involved in writing a report or submission that advocates for legal change. These organisations have in the past included the Human Rights Law Centre, Youthlaw, Victorian Council of Social Services, YACVic, Liberty Victoria, the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service, JobWatch, Berry Street, the Federation of Community Legal Centres. the Mental Health Legal Centre, amongst others.
Complete this subject.
- Law in Social Theory 12.5 pts
Law in Social Theory builds upon issues introduced in Law in Society, and Law, Justice and Social Change. Through a seminar-style format, it examines the theories of the function and role of law propounded by a range of social and legal theorists and movements, including Jürgen Habermas, Niklas Luhmann, Patricia Williams, Pierre Bourdieu, Catharine McKinnon, and others. Students examine these different theories of how law works and law's role, using them as a lens on questions of justice and crime. Each week these theories are considered in light of and tested against contemporary criminological and socio-legal problems selected by the students and the lecturer. Case studies in the past have included Indigenous Constitutional Recognition, the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse, and the Review of the Australian Defence Force's Treatment of Women. The purpose of the course is thus two-fold: to become familiar with different theories of the function of law in relation to society, and to consider the insight these theories bring to different criminological and socio-legal problems.
Complete one of these subjects.
- Cultures of Law 12.5 pts
Cultures of Law begin with a focus on the early themes and concepts that laid down the anthropological foundations and understandings of law and social order. Through an ethnographic approach, it will examine; (a) how social practices in different cultures shape one’s understandings of laws and customs; (b) the different legal sensibilities across societies; (c) the constitution of customary laws and colonialism in different societies; (d) colonialism and the emergence of new definitions of law and order. Focusing particularly on former colonies in non-western societies, students will explore themes of customary law, kinship networks, processes of arbitration in customary courts (in Asia and Africa), and the connection between colonialism and legal systems in the global south. The core readings will consist of anthropological texts about processes of arbitration, judgment, law and customs, and judicial processes to focus on interpretation of rights, justice, and definitions of law and order in the contemporary world.
- Corporate Power and White Collar Crime 12.5 pts
This subject analyses the crimes and harms of the powerful. The subject examines the relationship between government, business and law both theoretically and through a series of case studies to explore the reasons behind business harms and crimes and why they are so difficult to tackle. The subject traces three different entry points into crimes of the powerful: corporate and white collar crime; business corruption and crimes of the powerful in a globalised economy. Students will explore a range of criminological theories that can help explain the harms perpetuated by the powerful as well as the techniques employed by the state in regulating white-collar and corporate misconduct. This includes the challenges of defining such harm as criminal and the strengths and weaknesses of trying to use the criminal law in curbing such activities. Case studies are used to deepen student's understanding of the breadth of such crime and harm as well as the the similarities and differences between them. Case studies include complex financial fraud, industrial disasters, professional misconduct, tax avoidance and environmental harm.
- Public Trials 12.5 pts
Trials play an important role in the drama of public life. Their study enables a contextual exploration of how law is constructed and performed. The guiding questions of this subject are: what happens in the trial? And what does the trial represent for the political community within which it takes place? The subject explores these questions through a range of high profile or exemplary trials in state and commonwealth, national and international, jurisdictions.
The key themes addressed through the in-depth study of public trials in this subject are:
- The use of trials to respond to situations of injustice and social instability;
- How trials generate stories of nationhood and political identity;
- The role of trials in reforming law and transforming the event to which they respond; and
- What the drama of the specific trial reveals about the community in which it is staged.
After introducing the nature of public trials the subject turns to a consideration of exemplary trials, both contemporary and historical, from various jurisdictions. An indicative sample includes the following famous trials.
- The Eichmann Trial (Jerusalem 1961);
- The Communist Party Case (Melbourne 1950-1951);
- The Ronald Ryan case (death penalty);
- Lindy Chamberlain trials (1981-1983);
- The Tampa case (Ruddock v Vardarlis, 2001);
- Tasmanian Dams case, 1983;
- Nulyrimma and Thompson (Australian genocide case), 1999;
- Mabo 1992;
- Brown v Board of Education, USA, 1954;
- The David Hicks Military Commission hearing, 2007;
- Palm Island death in custody coronial inquiries and trial, 2004-2007; and
- OJ Simpson trials (criminal and civil), 1995-2007.