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This unit explores the legal and policy context in which some of Australia's most challenging environmental controversies arise. It introduces students to the broad framework for environmental regulation, decision-making and dispute resolution, using a range of topical issues and case studies. In 2021, these case studies will include the  “Black Summer” bushfires, Rio Tinto’s destruction of the Juukan Gorge caves in Western Australia, protecting the Great Barrier Reef and the Adani Carmichael coal mine. Closer to home, we’ll consider fish farming in Tasmania and commercial tourism in national parks.

Using these and other issues as a lens, we will draw out common themes and challenges in environmental governance, including:
how practical and effective the principles of ecologically sustainable development as a basis for environmental protection in Australia;

  • Divisions of power between the Commonwealth and State governments and issues of regulatory fragmentation;
  • the importance of public participation in environmental decision-making;
  • Issues with compliance, enforcement and the overall efficacy of our laws; and
  • the role of the market in environmental regulation.

Summary 2021

Unit name Current Issues in Environmental Law and Policy
Unit code LAW195
Credit points 12.5
Faculty/School College of Arts, Law and Education
Faculty of Law
Discipline Law

Professor Jan Macdonald

Available as student elective? Yes
Breadth Unit? No



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* The Final WW Date is the final date from which you can withdraw from the unit without academic penalty, however you will still incur a financial liability (see withdrawal dates explained for more information).

About Census Dates

Learning Outcomes

  1. Describe and explain understanding of the division of powers over environmental matters between local, state, and Commonwealth governments, and the role of international bodies..
  2. Critically reflect on the range of social, political, ethical, economic and ecological factors that influence environmental law, policy, and decision-making..
  3. Critique the value and application of the principles of Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD) in the context of the disputes and case studies discussed in the course.
  4. Communicate effectively orally and in writing.





Mutual Exclusions

You cannot enrol in this unit as well as the following:



Teaching Pattern

Weekly seminar (2 hours)


Contribution to online discussion boards, 6 contributions, max 400 words each (30%)

Research presentation and annotated bibliography, 10 minutes and 2500 words (30%)

Take-home exam (40%)

TimetableView the lecture timetable | View the full unit timetable



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