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This course explores the legal and policy context in which some of Australia's most challenging environmental controversies arise. It introduces students to the framework for national and international environmental regulation using a range of topical issues and case studies. In 2020, these case studies will include the 2020 bushfires, protecting the Great Barrier Reef, salmon aquaculture expansion and commercial use of national parks.

Together, these case studies highlight common themes and challenges in environmental governance, including:

  • operationalising the principles of ecologically sustainable development;
  • problems of regulatory fragmentation and divisions of power;
  • the increasing internationalisation of domestic environmental law;
  • the importance of public participation in environmental decision-making;
  • the role of human rights and environmental ethics in environmental law; and
  • the role of the market in environmental regulation.

Summary 2020

Unit name Current Issues in Environmental Law and Policy
Unit code LAW639
Credit points 12.5
Faculty/School College of Arts, Law and Education
Faculty of Law
Discipline Law

Professor Jan McDonald

Teaching staff

Level Advanced
Available as student elective? Yes
Breadth Unit? No



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About Census Dates

Learning Outcomes




Completion of 150 points of university study (ie. 12 x 12.5 point units)


Teaching Pattern

2 hour Seminar weekly


Task 1: Take-home exam (40%)

Task 2: Contribution to online discussion boards (30%)

Task 3: Research presentation and annotated bibliography (30%)

TimetableView the lecture timetable | View the full unit timetable




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