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Unit Overview


A large part of the work done by lawyers in practice is determining the meaning and application of words in statutes and contracts. The law of interpretation is the law that deals with the legal principles, aids and method of how to engage in that interpretation. This unit will mainly deal with the law of statutory interpretation, but will also cover key aspects of the law relating to the interpretation of contracts (which is distinct from the law on the formation and enforcement of contracts studied in LAWS4103 Contract). The unit will focus on the primary legislative and common law principles that govern the reading and understanding of the text in its context, and having regard to the instrument's purpose, in order to infer the ‘intention' of the maker. For statutes, other topics covered include legislative drafting, the relationship between statutes and between statutes and the common law, use of extrinsic materials, and delegated legislation. For contracts, other topics covered include use of surrounding circumstances and post-contractual conduct, and interpretation of particular classes of contract (eg: commercial contracts, State Agreements in the resources sector). The unit will highlight the similarities and the differences in the function of interpretation for statutes (public instruments) and contracts (private instruments), and in the approaches adopted by the legislature and the courts to the interpretation of each instrument.

6 points
(see Timetable)
Semester 2UWA (Perth)Face to face

Students are able to (1) demonstrate an understanding of the concepts of text, context and purpose for both statutes and contracts

; (2) identify and analyse relevant interpretative principles and factors for a statutory interpretative task; (3) evaluate relevant interpretative principles and factors for a statutory interpretation task; (4) develop a coherent and plausible argument about the preferred meaning of statutory text; and (5) demonstrate an understanding of the key differences in statutory and contractual interpretation law, including the function of interpretation for each type of instrument.


Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) participation; (2) assignment; and (3) examination. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Student may be offered supplementary assessment in this unit if they meet the eligibility criteria.

Unit Coordinator(s)
Jacinta Dharmananda
Unit rules
Enrolment in
Unit(s) LAWS4101 Foundations of Law and Lawyering (ID 4099)
, Unit(s) LAWS4102 Criminal Law (ID 4093)
, Unit(s) LAWS4103 Contract (ID 4090)
Unit(s) LAWS4109 Legal Theory and Ethics (ID 6256) Unit(s) LAWS5820 Legislation in Practice (ID 4718)
Advisable prior study
LAWS4104 Property (ID 4102) LAWS4107 Land Law (Advisable Co Requisite)
Contact hours
4 hours per week
  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
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  • Unit readings, including any essential textbooks, are listed in the unit outline for each unit, one week prior the commencement of study. The unit outline will be available via the LMS and the UWA Handbook one week prior the commencement of study. Reading lists and essential textbooks are subject to change each semester. Information on essential textbooks will also be made available on the Essential Textbooks. This website is updated regularly in the lead up to semester so content may change. It is recommended that students purchase essential textbooks for convenience due to the frequency with which they will be required during the unit. A limited number of textbooks will be made available from the Library in print and will also be made available online wherever possible. Essential textbooks can be purchased from the commercial vendors to secure the best deal. The Student Guild can provide assistance on where to purchase books if required. Books can be purchased second hand at the Guild Secondhand bookshop (second floor, Guild Village), which is located on campus.
  • Contact hours provide an indication of the type and extent of in-class activities this unit may contain. The total amount of student work (including contact hours, assessment time, and self-study) will approximate 150 hours per 6 credit points.