Studying online

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Unit Overview


Building upon the content of LAWS4108 Foundations of Public Law, students engage in a detailed study of Commonwealth Constitution High Court jurisprudence. Introducing constitutional characterisation through the Trade and Commerce Power, they then focus on an analysis of key Commonwealth powers, namely the Corporations, External Affairs, Defence, Finance and Referral powers. Subsequently, students consider the restraints on powers such as Chapter III judicial power, the implied freedom of political communication, intergovernmental immunities and inconsistency of Commonwealth and State laws. Topics draw upon contemporary, historical and political developments and policy background to expound the High Court's role as the constitutional keystone of the Australian federation and its interpretive influence over Commonwealth-State relations. Students are able to (1) demonstrate a sound understanding of constitutional powers and their limits, while appreciating institutional relationships, the impact of constitutional decisions and contemporary constitutional developments; (2) appreciate how constitutional litigation is conducted; (3) develop and apply constitutional methodology and analysis to constitutional problems; (4) locate, digest, critique, synthesise and apply constitutional materials; and (5) confidently discuss constitutional concepts and formulate logical constitutional arguments.

6 points
(see Timetable)
Semester 1UWA (Perth)Face to face

Students are able to (1) demonstrate an understanding of: the fundamental principles and concepts of Australian constitutional law, powers and the relationships between the constitutional institutions of government, the role of federal constitutional power within the legal system as a whole, external affairs power of the Commonwealth in implementing international conventions into domestic law and regulating matters of international concern, and relationship between international law and Australian domestic law; (2) demonstrate an appreciation of contemporary constitutional developments and issues and the impact of the High Courts of Australia (HCA) Constitutional Law decisions upon public policy development and implementation; (3) demonstrate an understanding of how litigation in the HCA is conducted from the perspective of a litigant and counsel representing that litigant; (4) critically analyse a complex Constitutional Law problem; (5) identify, interpret and apply fundamental and relevant constitutional law concepts and constitutional sources in resolving complex constitutional law problems; (6) apply federal constitutional powers and limitations to determine the constitutional validity of hypothetical legislative provisions; (7) understand differences in constitutional judicial methodology in majority and minority resolution of HCA matters; (8) demonstrate an ability to engage in legal research in tracing historical versions of legislation arising in a constitutional case; (9) demonstrate an ability to engage in legal research in locating, digesting and synthesising secondary materials in preparation for the examination essay question; and (10) communicate effectively in discussing constitutional concepts and formulating constitutional arguments.


Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) tutorial 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)
Murray Wesson and Sarah Murray
Unit rules
Successful completion of
LAWS4110 Legal Interpretation
and LAWS4101 Foundations of Law and Lawyering
and LAWS4108 Foundations of Public Law
Contact hours
lectures: 3 hours per week
tutorials: 2 hours per fortnight
For Masters of Legal Practice students, please note that to satisfy the Priestly Requirement of Constitutional Law, you must also complete Foundations of Public Law.

Blackshield, T. and Williams, G. Australian Constitutional Law and Theory: Commentary and Materials, 6th edn: Federation Press 2013 (unabridged version)

  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
  • All students are responsible for identifying when they need assistance to improve their academic learning, research, English language and numeracy skills; seeking out the services and resources available to help them; and applying what they learn. Students are encouraged to register for free online support through GETSmart; to help themselves to the extensive range of resources on UWA's STUDYSmarter website; and to participate in WRITESmart and (ma+hs)Smart drop-ins and workshops.
  • 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.