Australian Law Essay Competition


Ruben Clark (1st Place)

In the field of Indigenous affairs, the focus of legislation and discourse thus far has largely been on land – that is, on real property rights. This focus aptly captures Western ownership-centric views and legal histories whilst also identifying the importance of Aboriginal connection to country. However, where this focus fails is in its disregard for the unique nature of that spiritual and cultural connection. Therein lies a bundle of Indigenous rights and interests compiling an ancient and hugely valuable compendium of traditional knowledge that remains unprotected from commercial exploitation.

Conventional law proving generally inadequate, Australia – and Victoria in particular – has begun to develop sui generis laws that recognise the unique nature of these traditional Indigenous rights and interests and which have recourse to customary law and tradition. The difficulty is in providing for these sui generis regimes such that they comfortably sit within, and engage with, the conventional law. Furthermore, any legislative scheme must also recognise the commercial landscape in which it will operate, for it is largely from commercial exploitation that rights and interests must be protected, particularly in the current shift towards the wide-spread incorporation of Aboriginal groups.

Upon review of the true state of affairs, I exhort the need to implement a new system that properly bridges the gap between different legal systems, and indeed between different ways of thinking. Such a system will be able to cater to the commercial reality of the corporate landscape in which dealings between indigenous and other parties now occur, and will allow traditional owners to come to any bargaining table with the full set of powers that would, under any other system, be afforded to the owners of that which is being bartered. 

Matthew Ricks (2nd Place)

The Chinese Communist Party has implemented the rule of law as a major policy intended to steer China into a new political age. However, due to the fundamental differences between China and the West’s political, legal and historical backgrounds the implementation of the rule of law in China is assuming a vastly different form to its Western counterpart.

This essay aims to explore the mechanisms of the Western rule of law, China’s historical amenability to its traditional operation, the dimensions of China’s actual implementation of it and how it might function in China in the future. 

Anasuya Datta (4th Place)

Historically, military involvement in domestic affairs was associated with authoritarianism and military dictatorships. Such hostility towards domestic military deployments results from political and legal traditions such as parliamentary supremacy, which ensured that power did not rest solely with the Executive. The absence of domestic military presence is considered a hallmark of liberal democracy; however, tensions may arise between this and the state’s responsibility to protect its people during emergencies. One recent example in Australia was the terrorist act of the Lindt Café Siege, after which the military and the executive government were criticised for not calling out the troops under Part IIIAAA of the Defence Act 1903 (Cth) to intervene earlier to dispel the threat. On the other hand, Part IIIAAA has been strongly criticised for allowing increased militarisation, increasing executive powers, and overstepping state authority and power by allowing the military to intervene domestically. This paper aims to justify Part IIIAAA and the expansion of military power domestically, using a jurisprudential framework going beyond contemporary policy-making, to demonstrate the necessity in having an emergency system where the executive, and military, can intervene to protect the citizens and state. The first section discusses emergency jurisprudence, providing different models that justify greater executive power in emergency situations, using theorists such as Oren Gross, David Dyzenhaus, John Locke and Giorgio Agamben. The second considers martial law as an emergency response, and its scope in liberal democracies, focussing on A V Dicey’s view on martial law. The third section provides examples of executive action in times of emergency, by referring to colonial Australia, the UK, Jamaica, Cape Colony and the US. The final section addressees and justifies Part IIIAAA and its position as a hybridised emergency mechanism using the aforementioned ideas on emergency jurisprudence. 

Essay Prizes

National Essay Prize

The Australian Institute of Administrative Law awards an AIAL National Essay Prize in Administrative Law every two years.

The next prize will be awarded in July 2017. The details for the AIAL Essay and Multimedia Prize in Administrative Law 2017 are here: Essay and multimedia prize in administrative law 2017 (757 KB)

The 2015 National Essay Prize was won by joint winners Lucy Jackson and Christopher Ellis. Ms Jackson's essay "Towards an Administrative Estoppel" is published in AIAL Forum 81. The essay by Mr Ellis will be published in AIAL Forum 82.

The 2013 National Essay Prize winner was won by Daniel Reynolds, a law student at the University of New South Wales, with an essay entitled "Consitutionalisation of Administrative Law". The essay was published in AIAL Forum No 74.

The 2011 National Essay Prize was won by Maya Narayan with an essay entitled “Creature of Statute, Beast of Burden: The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal and the Heavy Lifting of Human Rights”. The essay was published in AIAL Forum No.66.

The 2009 National Essay Prize was won by Tristan Robinson with an essay entitled “Federal FOI Reform and Media Access to Government Information: A Transparency Revolution or Just a Better Foothold?”. The essay was published in AIAL Forum No.62.

DownloadAIAL Essay Prize Rules May 2013 (72 KB)  

State and Territory Essay Prizes

No information available at this time...

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