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Law, Justice and Social Change examines the ways in which law can be seen and used as both an instrument of positive social change and yet also as a means of confirming existing social arrangements and resisting social change. Through a series of case studies, it critically reflects on the key goals of law reform (such as access to justice and equality) and different ways of understanding what constitutes a just outcome. It looks at a selection of issues such as gender politics, ethnicity, race, disability, indigenous politics, non-English speaking background, class and economic struggles, sexual orientation and social dissent. There is also a strong practical component to the subject - students learn about the law reform process and choose a current law reform issue to consider in light of the issues discussed in the subject and interview a staff member from a community legal centre or government body involved in writing a report or submission that advocates for legal change. These issues and organisations have in the past included the Disability Discrimination Act (The Office of the Public Advocate), Racial and Religious Vilification (Victorian Office of Multicultural Affairs), the Victorian Aboriginal Justice Agreement (Department of Justice Victoria), Same Sex Relationships and the Law and Reproductive Technology and Adoption (Equal Opportunity Commission Victoria), Homelessness and Poverty (Public Interest Law Clearing House), Electro Convulsive Therapy (Mental Health Legal Centre), Unfair Dismissal Protection for Casual Workers (JobWatch), Refugee Rights (Refugee & Immigration Legal Centre), Child Custody Arrangements (Women's Legal Service Victoria), a Children and Young People's Commission (Youth Affairs Council of Victoria), Right to Silence (Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service).
Intended learning outcomes
On completion of this subject students should:
- Be able to examine the ways in which law can be seen as both an instrument of positive social change and yet also a means of confirming existing social arrangements and resisting social change;
- Be able to explore theoretical perspectives on law, justice and the community;
- Critically analyse a series of case studies concerning the struggles for access to justice and involvement in legal processes and institutions by particular groups and individuals;
- Consider a selection of issues such as gender politics, ethnicity, race, indigenous politics, sexual orientation, class and economic struggles, social dissent and the experience of non-English speaking background individuals;
- Work productively in groups.
Last updated: 30 July 2023