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Three Good Things and Three Not-so-Good Things about the Australian Legal System


It is often thought that, as a former British colony, Australia must have a legal system that mirrors that of its colonial parent. To an extent this is true. Australia inherited that weird and wonderful body of judicial doctrine, and law-making process, called the 'common law', that uniquely melds and simultaneously produces constancy and change.

Moreover, in addition to this slow and accidental accretion of judge-made law that combines fidelity to precedent with incremental growth through the adaptation of precedent, Australia inherited many of the underlying and fundamental values and principles of the English common law, such as the rule of law, equality before the law, the presumption of innocence, the imperative of a fair trial, and an independent judiciary – all in the context of the achievement of finality (not necessarily of truth) through adversarial rather than inquisitorial processes.

This paper was presented at the International Association of Law Schools Conference, Learning from Each Other: Enriching the Law School Curriculum in an Interrelated World, Kenneth Wang School of Law, Soochow University, Suzhou, China, 17-19 October 2007.

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