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Aldous, Jules --- "Legal Studies High Court Issues - a Forum Activity" [2003] AltLawJl 18; (2003) 28(2) Alternative Law Journal 88

High Court Issues - a Forum Activity

A forum activity involves students working in-groups to investigate issues using a range of source materials. Students should be familiar with the role of the High Court. If students have not studied the role of the High Court they should complete the following preliminary exercise.

Preliminary exercise

Using your textbook and the High Court homepage:, [go to 'About the Court'] answer the following questions:

1. When was the High Court established?

2. What is the jurisdiction of the High Court?

3. What is a Full Bench? In what types of cases would a Full Bench be used?

Forum activity

This task consists of two parts:


Each group investigates a key question relating to the operation of the High Court.

Poster presentation:

Each group will prepare a poster and oral presentation. Based on their investigation, each group should prepare a poster that illustrates their group's response to the questions set. The oral presentation should provide an extended discussion of the poster.

Each group will investigate one of the following:

INVESTIGATION 1: What have been the significant events in the development of the High Court?

References: ALJ article - 'Defend Thyself' pp.65-8

to 'About the Court'

1. Using the High Court home page and the article 'Defend Thyself' develop a time line illustrating significant events in the development of the High Court.

2. The article refers to criticism of the High Court relating to:

- the outcome of decisions

– individual judges of a personal nature

- individual judges in their professional capacity

- of the Court as an institution. Briefly explain each area of criticism.

INVESTIGATION 2: How should the High Court deal with criticism?

References: ALJ article - 'Defend Thyself' pp.65-8

HeadingPagesDisplay/Speeches?OpenDocument - Go to 'Speeches'. Go to 'Index to 2002 Speeches'. Go to 'The role of Attorney General'

1. Explain the traditional role of the Federal Attorney General in relation to criticism of the High Court. How does the Federal Attorney General view his role in relation to criticism of the High Court? What reasons does he give to justify his view?

2. What is the JCA? Should the JCA respond to criticisms of the High Court?

3. What is the role of the Chief Justice of the High Court? How has the Chief Justice responded to criticisms of the High Court?

4. The article concludes: 'Rather than looking for a cure, it might be more constructive to address prevention.' Explain.

INVESTIGATION 3: Who are the High Court judges?

References: ALJ article - 'A century of appointments but only one woman' pp.54-8

go to 'Corporate information'

1. How are High Court judges appointed?

2. Using the High Court homepage, prepare a short biography for each of the current High Court judges. According to the article, what is the typical profile of a judge in terms of gender, ethnic background, age and ? Does your research support this profile?

3. Find out about the judges in the Federal Court and the Family Court.

- Calculate the percentage of male and female appointments to each court. Prepare a bar graph to compare the number of male and female judges in the Federal Court, Family Court and the High Court.

- Can you suggest any reasons for the differences that you note?

4. Should we be concerned that there are no female judges in the High Court?

INVESTIGATION 4: How has the High Court dealt with discrimination?

References: ALJ article - 'Without precedent-sex/gender discrimination in the High Court' pp. 74-7

http:/ /www.deakin. edu. au/tedca/ncet/information/

legislation_and_rights/ antidiscrimination_legislation.html

1. Design a diagram to illustrate the range of laws in Australia on discrimination.

2. Prepare a summary of the facts and the decisions in the Wardley and Banovic cases.

3. How has the High Court's approach to racial discrimination legislation differed to the approach taken to cases involv­ ing sex/gender discrimination? Explain.

4. Suggest reasons why there are relatively few cases in which the High Court has been asked determine questions relating to sex/gender discrimination.

5. The article states: 'without precedent established by the High Court sex/gender discrimination law remains without the benefit of the highest legal authority.'

What is precedent?

What does the term 'highest legal authority' mean?

Why is it important that precedent on sex/gender discrimination be formed?

INVESTIGATION 5: How has the High Court approached native title cases?

References: AU article - 'The jurisprudence of denial' pp.83-7

1. Find out more about Eddie Mabo: Who was Eddie Mabo? What was the Mabo case and why is this case significant?

2. The Commonwealth Parliament responded to the decision in the Mabo case by passing the Native Title Act 1993:

What was the community reaction to the Native Title Act?

Explain the three characteristics of native title and interests set out in the Native Title Act?

3. What is the 'rule of recognition'? How does the 'rule of recognition' limit native title claims?

4. In determining the Yorta Yorta case, the Court considered both oral evidence presented by the claimants and historical records. What evidence do you think a court should consider in determining? Justify your response.


Jules Aldous teaches legal studies at She/ford Girls Grammar School in Melbourne and has written several legal studies text books for secondary school students.

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