University of Technology Sydney

70102 Foundations of Law



This subject introduces students to the foundations of Australian law: its origins, institutions, cultural contexts and theoretical foundations. We examine the role of the legal doctrine of terra nullius in the British colonisation of Australian peoples and places, and its connection to the 'reception' of English law into Australia. We explore the key ideas that underpin Australia's legal institutions including democracy, sovereignty, the rule of law and the separation of powers. We combine our understanding of the historical development of Australian law and legal institutions with a critical analysis of their conceptual underpinnings using critical legal theory. This theory scrutinises the assumptions, logic, language and practice of law. Using a critical analysis of law, for example, from the perspective of the colonised rather than the colonising, allows students to ask different questions about not only the abstract principles of law, but also the lived experience of law. The subject also introduces students to the nature of legal thinking and legal practice including research methods, and the techniques and principles involved in reading and interpreting case law and statute. Legal reasoning is one of the most important topics in the subject and students are given the opportunity to explore both traditional methods of legal reasoning and critical lenses through which to analyse and evaluate a legal question. For instance, using feminist legal theories and critical race theory we can arrive at different answers to the same legal question. The critical legal thinking and legal research skills that students develop in this subject are essential to the successful completion of later subjects in the law degree program.

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