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Public Interest Litigation - JURD7485
 Law Books

Faculty: Faculty of Law
School:  School of Law
Course Outline: See below
Campus: Kensington Campus
Career: Postgraduate
Units of Credit: 6
EFTSL: 0.12500 (more info)
Indicative Contact Hours per Week: 4
Enrolment Requirements:
Prerequisite: LAWS1001 and LAWS1011; Corequisite: LAWS2311.
Excluded: LAWS3185
Fee Band:   (more info)
Further Information: See Class Timetable


Public Interest Litigation: Origins and Strategies will examine how to realise human rights and advance social justice through the practice of law. The course will trace the emergence of the public interest litigation (PIL) movement by reference to the use of law in shaping social policy in different jurisdictions, including America, India, Israel, Canada and South Africa. Students will evaluate various litigation strategies adopted to advance a public interest in the Australian context. Topics covered will include: test case litigation, amicus curiae interventions, class actions or representative proceedings, and litigating Bills of Rights; barriers to conducting PIL, including standing, resource constraints and the risk of adverse costs orders. A critical aim of the course is to encourage students to recognise both the value and limitations of public interest litigation. Students will be asked as part of the course assessment to select a topic of contemporary public interest and devise a litigation strategy to advance an issue of social importance.

Recommended Prior Knowledge


Course Objectives

A critical aim of the course is to encourage students to recognise both the value and limitations of public interest litigation and to demonstrate how to devise legal and complementary strategies to promote issues of social importance.

Main Topics

  • Origins and history of the public interest law movement
  • The emergence of PIL in different jurisdictions eg India, America, South Africa, Australia, Canada and South America
  • Working with barriers to PIL eg standing, limited resources and risks of costs orders, judicial systems
  • PIL strategies (illustrated by reference to case-studies) eg test-case litigation, class actions/representative proceedings, amicus curiae interventions, administrative review
  • Litigating Bills of Rights (USA, Canada, SA and the UK Human Rights Act) - litigating civil/political and economic, social and cultural rights
  • Invoking international mechanisms and procedures eg Optional Protocols
  • Securing the public interest via alternatives to litigation eg arbitration, mediation
  • Supplementing PIL eg via policy interventions, developing parallel campaigns, working with the media
  • Working with communities and public interest clients – ethical and political considerations


Class participation 10%
Group presentation/assignment 40%
Research essay 50%

Course Texts


Course Materials will be available to students prior to the start of session. Part 1 of these materials must be read prior to the first class. Additional materials will be distributed during classes.


Refer to Course Materials.

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© The University of New South Wales (CRICOS Provider No.: 00098G), 2004-2011. The information contained in this Handbook is indicative only. While every effort is made to keep this information up-to-date, the University reserves the right to discontinue or vary arrangements, programs and courses at any time without notice and at its discretion. While the University will try to avoid or minimise any inconvenience, changes may also be made to programs, courses and staff after enrolment. The University may also set limits on the number of students in a course.