Publications

This is a searchable catalogue of the College's most recent books and working papers. Other papers and publications can be found on SSRN and the ANU Researchers database.

Women and Discrimination Law

Author(s): Margaret Thornton

This paper presents a critical overview of contemporary issues of concern relating to sex discrimination legislation in Australia, focusing particularly on the workplace and the federal Act. Pregnancy, maternity leave and caring responsibilities continue to be especially problematic because of the individual complaint-based mechanism, the comparability requirement in direct discrimination and the assumption of formal equality underpinning the Act.

Read on SSRN

Centre: CIPL, CLAH, PEARL

Research theme: Human Rights Law and Policy, Law and Gender, Legal Education, The Legal Profession

‘Post-Feminism’ in the Legal Academy?

Author(s): Margaret Thornton

Against the background of the political swing from social liberalism to neoliberalism in Australia, this essay considers the discomfiting relationship between feminism and the legal academy over the last three decades. It briefly traces the trajectory of the liaison, the course of the brief affair, the parting of the ways and the cold shoulder. In considering the reasons for the retreat from feminism, it is suggested that it has been engineered by neoliberalism through the market’s deployment of third wave feminism, particularly the popular manifestation of girlpower. The focus on promotion of the self, consumerism, free choice and sexuality has deflected attention away from collective harms. Girlpower has also facilitated a revival of gendered binarisms on the social script, which does not bode well for the future of women in the legal profession. The proposition is illustrated by reference to the represention of women’s breasts on the cover of a law students’ magazine containing articles on sexed crime.

Read on SSRN

Centre: CIPL, CLAH, PEARL

Research theme: Human Rights Law and Policy, Law and Gender, Legal Education, The Legal Profession

Age Discrimination in Turbulent Times

Author(s): Margaret Thornton

Concerns about the ramifications of a rapidly aging population have generally focused on the post-retirement period, with limited scholarly attention to the experience of ageism in the workplace. Despite a shift in policy against early retirement, ‘older workers’ – who may be as young as 40 – are disproportionately experiencing age discrimination, often resulting in joblessness. This article argues that in a postmodern environment, where the culture of ‘youthism’ predominates, the workplace is undergoing significant changes. In the new knowledge economy, characterised by technological know how, flexibility and choice, traditional values such as maturity, experience and loyalty have become passé. Drawing on Australian complaints and reported decisions of age discrimination in the workplace in the context of the international literature, the article demonstrates the variety of forms ageism is taking. It argues that age discrimination legislation reflects an outdated modernist paradigm that fails to address the experience of older workers. In addition, as part of the culture of youthism, work is now being gauged by its capacity to create an aesthetic of pleasure.

Read on SSRN

Centre: CIPL, CLAH, PEARL

Research theme: Human Rights Law and Policy, Law and Gender, Legal Education, The Legal Profession

Criminal Law: Defences to Homicide

Author(s): Anthony Hopkins

This chapter explores a few of the contexts and the defences for women who kill in Australia. Focusing on battered women who kill, women with PMS and women with post-partum depression, we examine what lawyers should look for in the cases, how to communicate with their clients most effectively to identify whether these background variables were present, possible pleas to argue, and how best to help the Court to hear the women’s case.

Read on SSRN

Centre: CIPL

Research theme: Criminal Law, Indigenous Peoples and the Law, Law and Gender, Law and Social Justice, Legal Education, The Legal Profession

The Legal Profession in Times of Turbulence

Author(s): Vivien Holmes

From 15 to 17 July 2010, over 150 lawyers, academics and practitioners gathered at Stanford University for the Fourth International Legal Ethics Conference. The number of participants and the breadth and quality of the presentations at this conference were clear evidence of the continuing energy and enthusiasm amongst scholars and practitioners for the field of legal ethics. While the tranquil and beautiful summertime campus at Stanford and the quiet efficiency of the conference organising staff did not echo the theme of the conference (Times of Turbulence), many sessions during the full conference schedule did. In particular, we were constantly reminded of the rapid and complex changes occurring in legal practice across the globe, and the consequent challenges faced by both the legal profession and academia in understanding, practicing and teaching legal ethics.

Read on SSRN

Centre: CCL, CIPL, LGDI

Research theme: Law and Psychology, Legal Education, Private Law, Regulatory Law and Policy, The Legal Profession

Developing a Professional Identity in Law School: A View from Australia

Author(s): Molly Townes O'Brien, Stephen Tang

Preliminary results from our study of law student wellbeing at the Australian National University are consistent with results of studies in the US and elsewhere in Australia, suggesting that law students may begin to experience increased psychological distress, including symptoms of depression, in the first year of law school. In light of this evidence, the particular challenge facing legal education is to look at the study of law itself and examine how the pedagogy, substance, and approach of legal education impact students’ self concept and well-being. This paper begins that task by exploring the formation of professional identity in law school.

In making decisions about legal content, materials, and pedagogy, legal educators (often unconsciously) adopt and communicate assumptions about professional identity that may be outmoded, incomplete, and inappropriate for the students’ futures as legal professionals. The typical law school curriculum offers a conception of the lawyer identity that is impoverished by legal education’s over-emphasis on adversarialism, detached analysis, and competitive individualism. Each of these factors may contribute to undermining students’ sense of values, feelings of power and competence, and general sense of wellbeing. Students’ exposure to this inadequate formulation of professional identity comes at a critically important time in the formation of their identities, a time when we, as educators, ought to be particularly sensitive to the messages we send.

We encourage legal educators to correct the distorting effects of a poor conception of the legal professional identity by encouraging the development of key aspects of personality, such as empathy, that are currently under-emphasised in legal education. We also argue that by improving the ways in which the law school environment fosters resilience, legal educators will contribute to their students’ current and future well-being and to the revitalisation of the profession.

Read on SSRN

Centre: CCL, CIPL, LGDI, PEARL

Research theme: Criminal Law, Health, Law and Bioethics, Human Rights Law and Policy, Law and Psychology, Law and Social Justice, Legal Education, Private Law, Regulatory Law and Policy, The Legal Profession

Women and Discrimination Law

Author(s): Margaret Thornton

This paper presents a critical overview of contemporary issues of concern relating to sex discrimination legislation in Australia, focusing particularly on the workplace and the federal Act. Pregnancy, maternity leave and caring responsibilities continue to be especially problematic because of the individual complaint-based mechanism, the comparability requirement in direct discrimination and the assumption of formal equality underpinning the Act.

Read on SSRN

Centre: CIPL, CLAH, PEARL

Research theme: Human Rights Law and Policy, Law and Gender, Legal Education, The Legal Profession

‘Post-Feminism’ in the Legal Academy?

Author(s): Margaret Thornton

Against the background of the political swing from social liberalism to neoliberalism in Australia, this essay considers the discomfiting relationship between feminism and the legal academy over the last three decades. It briefly traces the trajectory of the liaison, the course of the brief affair, the parting of the ways and the cold shoulder. In considering the reasons for the retreat from feminism, it is suggested that it has been engineered by neoliberalism through the market’s deployment of third wave feminism, particularly the popular manifestation of girlpower. The focus on promotion of the self, consumerism, free choice and sexuality has deflected attention away from collective harms. Girlpower has also facilitated a revival of gendered binarisms on the social script, which does not bode well for the future of women in the legal profession. The proposition is illustrated by reference to the represention of women’s breasts on the cover of a law students’ magazine containing articles on sexed crime.

Read on SSRN

Centre: CIPL, CLAH, PEARL

Research theme: Human Rights Law and Policy, Law and Gender, Legal Education, The Legal Profession

The New Racism in Employment Discrimination: Tales from the Global Economy

Author(s): Margaret Thornton

Neoliberal employment strategies, immigration policies, economic globalisation and the events of 9/11 have created new environments for racism in Australia. In this article, the ramifications of the shifting political environment on race discrimination against ethnicised Others in employment since 1990 are examined, with particular regard to the post-9/11 period. Drawing on complaints made to anti-discrimination agencies and decisions of courts and tribunals, it is argued that there has been a contraction in the ambit of operation of the legislation through the application of exemptions and a heightened burden of proof for complainants which has had a chilling effect on the jurisdiction. Drawing on Goldberg’s thesis of the racial state, it is posited that in the contemporary political environment, the state is active in producing and sustaining racism.

Read on SSRN

Centre: CIPL, CLAH, PEARL

Research theme: Human Rights Law and Policy, Law and Gender, Legal Education, The Legal Profession

Creating the Right Spaces: Civil Participation and Social Inclusion: A Report on West Heidelberg Residents' Conflict Management Workshops

Author(s): Elizabeth Curran

The report is written with the view that the workshops and the lessons drawn from them can aid in providing a community engagement model for other residential groups in different localities as well as for other community projects with different social groups. With this aim in mind, the hope is to encourage the completion of the project as envisaged which involves a comprehensive approach to civil participation, conflict management and constructive communication involving all sectors of civil society.

The report outlines the approach taken to the workshops and their outcomes and some of the challenges for communities who feel excluded and who may not have had positive experiences or training in how to navigate complex systems and have conversations. It makes some recommendations and outlines some of the lessons learned by all.

The workshops achieved the overall goal of the ‘Creating Right Spaces’ project: of benefiting people with the least access to justice and community development to voice their concerns and learn some skills that could be helpful to them. This was achieved on a small scale and yet this project demonstrates how beneficial such a program can be as well as the importance of it being a continuing project. “One off” funding misses the opportunity for ongoing recurrent work. Continued support is necessary if any real gains are to be made to ensure behaviour change and ongoing skills development and to ensure that the work can transcend often fixed negative patterns of behaviour and give people the capacity to generate real, long lasting and sustainable positive change.

The extraordinary richness of the interactions that arose in the workshops occurred not just from the stories shared and the skills learnt together but, in the words of the residents, from the growing awareness of how the strength of a community comes from within the community itself and its ability to organise, support and respect its members as well as learn more about creating better relationship and engagements. There was individual and collective growth which involved rekindling a sense of being worthy of happiness, opportunities, and a better future – and this happened because the group itself supported each person to take risks, acknowledged each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and demonstrated honesty, respect and gratitude.

Read on SSRN

Centre:

Research theme: Health, Law and Bioethics, Human Rights Law and Policy, Indigenous Peoples and the Law, Law and Social Justice, Legal Education, The Legal Profession

The Idea of the University and the Contemporary Legal Academy

Author(s): Margaret Thornton

In light of the contemporary moves to transform the Australian university by subjecting it to the values of the market, the traditional idea of the university is in jeopardy. Freedom to teach, the unity of teaching and research, and academic selfgovernance are key factors associated with this idea. With its primarily professional and vocational focus, law has tended to be somewhat more ambivalent than the humanities about the freedoms associated with teaching and the pursuit of knowledge. Nevertheless, a liberal legal education is an ideal to which law schools have aspired over the last two or three decades. This article argues that, after a brief flirtation with a more humanistic legal education, the market is causing a swing back to a technocratic and doctrinal approach. The article draws on key proponents of the 'idea of the university', namely, Newman, Humboldt and Jaspers to consider what light these theorists might shed on the dilemma posed by the market imperative. It is suggested that a disregard for the presuppositions of the market could be disastrous for the future of the university law school.

Read on SSRN

Centre: CIPL, CLAH, PEARL

Research theme: Human Rights Law and Policy, Law and Gender, Legal Education, The Legal Profession

The Power of Rationalization to Influence Lawyers' Decisions to Act Unethically

Author(s): Vivien Holmes

This article explores the psychological literature on rationalization and connects it with contemporary questions about the role of in-house lawyers in ethical dilemmas. Using the case study of AWB Ltd, the exclusive marketer of Australian wheat exports overseas, it suggests that rationalizations were influential in the perpetuation by in-house lawyers of AWB's payment of kickbacks to the Iraqi regime.

The article explores how lawyers' professional rationalizations can work together with commercial imperatives to prevent in-house lawyers from seeing ethical issues as those outside the organisation would see them. In particular, where lawyers over-identify with their client's commercial point of view and convince themselves that their role is primarily about providing 'technical' advice on commercial matters, wilful or unintended 'ethical blindness' can result. Lawyers can end up involved in or perpetuating serious misconduct by their client organizations.

Read on SSRN

Centre: CCL, CIPL, LGDI

Research theme: Law and Psychology, Legal Education, Private Law, Regulatory Law and Policy, The Legal Profession

The Law School, the Market, and the New Knowledge Economy

Author(s): Margaret Thornton

This paper considers how recent changes in higher education are impacting on the discipline of law, causing the critical scholarly space to contract in favour of that which is market-based and applied. The charging of high fees has transformed the delicate relationship between student and teacher into one of ‘customer’ and ‘service provider’. Changes in pedagogy, modes of delivery and assessment have all contributed to the narrowing of the curriculum in a way that supports the market. The paper will briefly illustrate the way the transformation has occurred and consider its effect on legal education and the legal academy.

Read on SSRN

Centre: CIPL, CLAH, PEARL

Research theme: Human Rights Law and Policy, Law and Gender, Legal Education, The Legal Profession

Do We Really Want to Know?: Recognizing the Importance of Student Psychological Well-Being in Australian Law Schools

Author(s):

Recent research in Australia has suggested that law students are four times more likely than students in other degrees to suffer from anxiety and depression. The Brain and Mind Research Institute’s (BMRI) 2008 survey of lawyers and law students found that over 35% of the law students studied suffered from high to very high levels of psychological distress, and that almost 40% reported distress severe enough to warrant clinical or medical intervention. This contrasted with just over 17% of medical students and 13% of the general population. Similarly, a significant portion of the lawyers surveyed were found to suffer from elevated levels of anxiety and depression, with 31% falling in the high to very high levels of psychological distress.

With research on student well-being now becoming available in Australia, this article takes up the point of how Australian law schools will respond to these findings. It suggests that even before we start to consider the question of what we should do about the problem of student well-being, we must recognize that there are common psychological processes which can undermine our response to these issues. In particular, research in cognitive dissonance and rationalization suggest that even as we become aware of negative information on law student distress, we can unconsciously ignore it or rationalize it away on the basis that it is not relevant to us. Furthermore, these same cognitive processes can affect our students, such that they can fail to appreciate the significant implications of this research for them.

Read on SSRN

Centre: CCL, CIPL, LGDI

Research theme: Law and Psychology, Legal Education, Private Law, Regulatory Law and Policy, The Legal Profession

Why Good Intentions are Often Not Enough: The Potential for Ethical Blindness in Legal Decision-Making

Author(s):

This chapter takes as its starting point the question of how otherwise experienced and principled lawyers can make blatantly unethical decisions. As recent research has shown, lawyers can become involved in legitimizing inhuman conduct just as they can in perpetuating accounting fraud or hiding client scandal. To an outsider looking at these circumstances, it invariably appears that the lawyers involved consciously acted immorally. Within the common framework of deliberative action, we tend to see unethical behaviour as the result of conscious and controlled mental processes.

Whilst awareness is always part of our actions, this chapter challenges the pervasiveness of assumptions about the power of conscious processes in ethical decision making. Drawing on a range of psychological research, it focuses on two important findings: first, that automatic mental processes are far more dominant in our thinking than most of us are aware; and second, that because we do not generally have introspective access to these processes, we infer from their results what the important factors in our decision making must be. These findings challenge the notion that individuals can be fully aware of what influences them to act ethically or unethically. It also suggests that we need to concentrate upon those conscious processes that we do know influence decision making in deepening our understanding of how to improve ethical awareness.

Read on SSRN

Centre: CCL, CIPL, LGDI

Research theme: Law and Psychology, Legal Education, Private Law, Regulatory Law and Policy, The Legal Profession

Desegregation and the Struggle for Equal Schooling: Rolling the Rock of Sisyphus

Author(s): Molly Townes O'Brien

Economic integration and citizen equality have been core ideals of American public schooling since its founding. The egalitarian ideals of free schooling, however, have never matched public school reality. Closing the gap between the idealistic rhetoric and the discriminatory reality of public schooling has been the target of school reform for decades and a major goal of the Civil Rights movement. This chapter recounts the effort to achieve equal educational opportunity for African Americans through school desegregation. Beginning with 19th century cases and continuing through Brown v. Board of Education to Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District, this chapter provides an overview of the litigation and court decisions dealing with school segregation and desegregation, and creates a picture of advancement toward and retrenchment from the goals of equal educational opportunity. It compares school reformers to Sisyphus, struggling mightily to push schools toward the ideals of equal opportunity and equal access, only to see progress roll back, time and again.

Read on SSRN

Centre: CIPL, PEARL

Research theme: Criminal Law, Human Rights Law and Policy, Law and Social Justice, Legal Education

Civil Procedure: Commentary and Materials 4th Edition Alternative Dispute Resolution

Author(s): Molly Townes O'Brien

This chapter provides an overview of the theory and practice of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). It discusses the growing need for methods other than litigation to resolve disputes, and focuses upon the growth of mediation, and to a lesser extent arbitration, in Australia. Other methods of dispute resolution are also discussed.

In the context of mediation, the structure of the mediation process is outlined, and the nature of consensual dispute resolution is explained. Four of the key features of mediation, namely accessibility, voluntariness, confidentiality and facilitation are analysed. Other issues such as power imbalance, enforceability of agreements to mediate and evaluation of mediation are also discussed.

The process of arbitration is then introduced, and the requirements of the Commercial Arbitration Acts are outlined. Finally, court-annexed mediation and arbitration, and the role of the legal profession in ADR practice are discussed.

Read on SSRN

Centre: CCL, CIPL, LGDI, PEARL

Research theme: Criminal Law, Human Rights Law and Policy, Law and Psychology, Law and Social Justice, Legal Education, Private Law, Regulatory Law and Policy, The Legal Profession

Civil Procedure: Commentary and Materials 4th Edition Alternative Dispute Resolution

Author(s): Molly Townes O'Brien

This chapter provides an overview of the theory and practice of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). It discusses the growing need for methods other than litigation to resolve disputes, and focuses upon the growth of mediation, and to a lesser extent arbitration, in Australia. Other methods of dispute resolution are also discussed.

In the context of mediation, the structure of the mediation process is outlined, and the nature of consensual dispute resolution is explained. Four of the key features of mediation, namely accessibility, voluntariness, confidentiality and facilitation are analysed. Other issues such as power imbalance, enforceability of agreements to mediate and evaluation of mediation are also discussed.

The process of arbitration is then introduced, and the requirements of the Commercial Arbitration Acts are outlined. Finally, court-annexed mediation and arbitration, and the role of the legal profession in ADR practice are discussed.

Read on SSRN

Centre: CCL, CIPL, LGDI, PEARL

Research theme: Criminal Law, Human Rights Law and Policy, Law and Psychology, Law and Social Justice, Legal Education, Private Law, Regulatory Law and Policy, The Legal Profession

Disabling Discrimination Legislation: The High Court and Judicial Activism

Author(s): Margaret Thornton

This article takes issue with detractors of judicial activism, such as Australian High Court judge, Dyson Heydon, who claim that it undermines the rule of law. It is argued that all judging necessarily involves an activist element because of the choices that judges make. Their reliance on values is starkly illustrated in the area of discrimination law where there may be no precedents and judges are perennially faced with interpretative crossroads. The neoliberal turn and a change in the political composition of the Australian High Court post-Wik underscore the activist role. With particular reference to the disability discrimination decisions handed down by the Court in the last two decades, it is argued that it is not so much the progressive judges as the conservatives who are the rogue activists engaged in corroding the rule of law; because of the way they consistently subvert legislative intent.

Read on SSRN

Centre: CIPL, CLAH, PEARL

Research theme: Human Rights Law and Policy, Law and Gender, Legal Education, The Legal Profession

The Spectral Ground: Religious Belief Discrimination

Author(s): Margaret Thornton

This paper considers the ground of religious belief under anti-discrimination law and argues that it is a spectral ground. While discrimination is proscribed in the same way as other grounds, religious belief is never defined; it merely has to be ‘lawful’, which is also not defined. While the proscription emerged from an official commitment to state secularism, in addition to tolerance and diversity, its permeable character allows mainstream Christianity, neoconservative fundamentalism and other variables to seep into it. An analysis of discrimination complaints shows how this occurs metonymically through proscribed grounds, such as sex, sexuality, ethnicity and race. The phenomenon is most marked post-9/11 through what has come to be known as ‘Islamophobia’. The proscription of religious vilification and incitement to religious hatred, which takes discrimination on the ground of religious belief to a new plane, further reveals the tendency of the spectral ground to absorb prevailing political influences.

Read on SSRN

Centre: CIPL, CLAH, PEARL

Research theme: Human Rights Law and Policy, Law and Gender, Legal Education, The Legal Profession

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