LAWS90088 Disaster Law and Climate Adaptation

Credit Points: 12.5
Level: 9 (Graduate/Postgraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2017:

November, Parkville - Taught on campus.Show/hide details
Pre-teaching Period Start 18-Oct-2017
Teaching Period 15-Nov-2017 to 21-Nov-2017
Assessment Period End 19-Feb-2018
Last date to Self-Enrol 30-Jun-2017
Census Date 15-Nov-2017
Last date to Withdraw without fail 05-Jan-2018

This subject has a quota of 30 students. Please refer to the Melbourne Law Masters website for further information about the management of subject quotas and waitlists.

Timetable can be viewed here.
For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 29-33 hours
Total Time Commitment:

136-150 hours

The pre-teaching period commences four weeks before the subject commencement date. From this time, students are expected to access and review the Reading Guide that will be available from the LMS subject page and the subject materials provided by the subject coordinator, which will be available from Melbourne Law School. Refer to the Reading Guide for confirmation of which resources need to be read and what other preparation is required before the teaching period commences.

Prerequisites: None
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge:

Applicants without legal qualifications should note that subjects are offered in the discipline of law at an advanced graduate level. While every effort will be made to meet the needs of students trained in other fields, concessions will not be made in the general level of instruction or assessment. Most subjects assume the knowledge usually acquired in a degree in law (LLB, JD or equivalent). Applicants should note that admission to some subjects in the Melbourne Law Masters will be dependent upon the individual applicant’s educational background and professional experience.

Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

The Melbourne Law Masters welcomes applications from students with disabilities. The inherent academic requirements for study in the Melbourne Law Masters are:

  • The ability to attend a minimum of 75% of classes and actively engage in the analysis and critique of complex materials and debate;
  • The ability to read, analyse and comprehend complex written legal materials and complex interdisciplinary materials;
  • The ability to clearly and independently communicate in writing a knowledge and application of legal principles and interdisciplinary materials and to critically evaluate these;
  • The ability to clearly and independently communicate orally a knowledge and application of legal principles and interdisciplinary materials and critically evaluate these;
  • The ability to work independently and as a part of a group;
  • The ability to present orally and in writing legal analysis to a professional standard.

Students who feel their disability will inhibit them from meeting these inherent academic requirements are encouraged to contact Student Equity and Disability Support.


Prof Lee Godden



Professor Lee Godden, Coordinator
Dr Anita Foerster

Email: law-masters@unimelb.edu.au
Phone: +61 3 8344 6190
Website: law.unimelb.edu.au

Subject Overview:

The frequency and severity of ‘natural’ disasters, like flood, cyclone and bushfire, and longer term phenomena, such as drought and sea level rise, will increase as a result of climate change; posing major threats to settlements, infrastructure, natural resources and biodiversity. This subject covers the multi-scalar legal response to disasters involving international treaties and soft-law instruments, national and regional regulation, and private law (torts and contract), and encompassing climate change adaptation, emergency management, environmental liability, insurance and human rights. It will examine approaches to prepare for, avoid or minimise disaster impacts, and to respond effectively and equitably post-event. Relevant case studies are drawn from Australia and various comparative jurisdictions regionally and internationally.

This subject critically examines different legal approaches to avoid, mitigate and respond to natural disasters and relevant adaptation planning, emergency and natural resource management regimes.

Principal topics include:

  • An overview of disasters and climate change impacts, focusing on predicted changes to the frequency, intensity and geographical occurrence of natural hazards, and impacts on human settlements
  • Examination of the types of public and private planning and legal mechanisms at the local, state, national and international scale relevant to disaster management
  • International agreements and soft law, with case studies of their application to recent disaster events (eg liability regimes for oil and gas disasters and mining incidents; funding mechanisms for disaster risk reduction; instruments for the protection of persons in disasters)
  • Emergency management and adaptation planning in Australia, with selected case studies covering: coastal hazards: NSW coastal management and land-use planning regimes; bushfire: Victorian land-use planning, emergency management and recovery, and relevant compensation law for the 2009 bushfires and fires in open cut coal mines in the La Trobe valley in 2015; Flood: statutory planning and insurance regimes in Queensland, and the response to the 2011 floods; Drought: emergency water allocation management in urban and rural areas in south-eastern Australia
  • Comparative case studies in developed and developing countries, evaluating the transferability of legal principles (eg responses to drought and water scarcity in the western United States and southern Africa; coastal adaptation planning instruments in the US and United Kingdom; and typhoon readiness in South East Asia).
Learning Outcomes:

A student who has successfully completed this subject will:

  • Have an advanced and integrated understanding of the legal principles and mechanisms that can be used to avoid, mitigate and respond to natural disasters and adapt to climate change, including recent developments in this emerging field of law and practice
  • Be able to critically examine, analyse, interpret and assess the effectiveness of these legal rules and mechanisms
  • Be well equipped to compare and contrast legal approaches to disaster management and climate adaptation in a range of jurisdictions, including both developed and developing countries
  • Be able to engage effectively in debate regarding different approaches to natural disaster management and climate change adaptation
  • Have a strong understanding of regimes for the management of natural disasters and trans-boundary harms in an international and human rights context
  • Have the cognitive and technical skills to independently examine, research and analyze existing and emerging legal issues relating to natural disasters and climate adaptation
  • Have the communication skills to clearly articulate and convey complex information regarding natural disaster and climate adaptation law to relevant specialist and non-specialist audiences.
  • Case study evaluation (25%)
    • In-class component – case study and class participation (10%)
    • 1,500 – 2,000 word write up due 11 December 2017 (15%)
  • 6,000 - 7,500 word research paper (75%) (19 February 2018) on a topic approved by the subject coordinator

A minimum of 75% attendance is a hurdle requirement.

Prescribed Texts:

Specialist printed materials will be made available free of charge from the Melbourne Law School prior to the pre-teaching period.

Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Links to further information: law.unimelb.edu.au
Related Course(s): Graduate Diploma in Construction Law
Graduate Diploma in Environmental Law
Graduate Diploma in Legal Studies
Master of Commercial Law
Master of Construction Law
Master of Environmental Law
Master of Law and Development
Master of Laws
Master of Public and International Law

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