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Equality and discrimination law is continuing to increase in importance, but remains controversial. This subject examines international and comparative aspects of equality and discrimination law. The subject is not confined to, but will include a focus on labour and employment issues. Equality and discrimination issues will be examined at four levels: international law, transnational, state constitutional law, and state human rights law. A review of the content and operation of the major United Nations (UN) and International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions relevant to discrimination generally and to equality at work is directly relevant to Australian domestic law as these treaties provide a constitutional basis as well as content for much Australian anti-discrimination legislation. For comparison, an overview of the European Union (EU) system for regulating discrimination law will be included. The focus then shifts to comparative national law, with an examination of protection of equality and discrimination rights at constitutional and legislative levels in Australia and other countries that take different approaches: some or all of Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States.
This subject provides a critical examination of the scope and operation of equality and discrimination law at international, transnational and national levels and utilises comparative doctrinal and policy analysis. While the major focus will be on work and employment, other areas will be considered where they cast light on the development of the law.
Principal topics include:
- An introduction to the different roles played by equality and discrimination at different locations and levels of the legal system
- Consideration of debates about the meaning of equality, discrimination and other contested concepts such as choice and responsibility
- Analysis of the roles, framework and key features of international treaties and conventions relating to equality and discrimination in both general (human rights) and specific (ILO) contexts
- Analysis of some of the key EU equality directives and their adoption in some Member States
- An analysis of constitutional protection of equality rights in countries with different modes of protection, chosen from Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States
- An examination of anti-discrimination and equality laws across several countries to contrast different approaches and conceptualisations of these rights, and also different social environments and barriers to achieving a more equal society
- Consideration of the role(s) of law in relation to equality and discrimination, and the uneven progress in the countries analysed
- Exploration of possible future directions for better protection of equality and discrimination rights.
Intended learning outcomes
A student who has successfully completed this subject will:
- Have an advanced and integrated understanding of the ideas of equality and discrimination, and how they are used in legal documents at the international, national constitutional and national legislative levels
- Be able to critically examine, analyse, interpret and assess the purposes and effects of these legal rules
- Be an engaged participant in debate regarding emerging and contemporary issues in the field, such as the role of international law, the appropriate scope of constitutional protection for rights, and the role of legislative protection in areas such as education for children with a disability, sex and race discrimination at work, and the extent of accommodation for parents and carers and for people with disabilities at work and in other contexts
- Have a sophisticated appreciation of the factors and processes influencing the production of each of the types of law
- Have an advanced understanding of situations in which issues of equality and discrimination may arise in at international level, in government actions, and in non-government activities such as work or education
- Have a detailed understanding of work-related equality and discrimination legal regimes in an international and human rights context
- Have the cognitive and technical skills to generate critical and creative ideas relating to equality and discrimination in legal forms and to critically evaluate existing legal theories, principles and concepts with creativity and autonomy
- Have a sophisticated appreciation of the plurality of norms and governance regimes involved in equality and anti-discrimination laws at different levels
- Have the cognitive and technical skills to independently examine, research and analyse existing and emerging legal issues relating to equality and discrimination in legal contexts
- Have the communication skills to clearly articulate and convey complex information regarding equality and discrimination in legal contexts to relevant specialist and non-specialist audiences
- Be able demonstrate autonomy, expert judgment and responsibility as a practitioner and learner in the field of equality and discrimination law.
Last updated: 3 November 2022