Faculty of Law

Postgraduate - Unit

This unit entry is for students who completed this unit in 2014 only. For students planning to study the unit, please refer to the unit indexes in the the current edition of the Handbook. If you have any queries contact the managing faculty for your course or area of study.

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6 points, SCA Band 3, 0.125 EFTSL

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered, or view unit timetables.

FacultyFaculty of Law
OfferedPrato Term 2 2014 (Day)


The unit is designed to challenge students about notions of families and relationships within society. It looks at 'traditional' marriages as well as same-sex marriages and de facto partnerships in different jurisdictions. It looks at 'traditional' families as well as families formed through assisted reproductive technology, adoption and surrogacy. It looks at the dynamics of parent-child relationships. Students are also required to consider the role of family law and other law in regulating family and personal intimate relationships.
Once the legislators intervene, courts need to interpret statutory frameworks in light of cultural and social knowledge and values. Students will examine the role of social science in influencing legislation and case law eg PAS (parental alienation syndrome) was universally adopted by family law courts and then discredited after scrutiny and agitation from credible social scientists.
Students will also examine the notion of 'best interests of the child' and what that concept entails from a comparative perspective particularly Australia compared with North America and England.
Students are also challenged to consider what constitutes child abuse or neglect. For example, corporal punishment, which is banned in many countries.
Students also examine emerging international issues such as international adoption and surrogacy and the different standards applied in different jurisdictions. Students are required to critically examine these issues and consider whether regulatory frameworks are desirable and/or necessary.


Students are expected to:

  • understand the role of family law in Western society;
  • understand different types of families, parent-child relationships and domestic partnerships;
  • compare Australian family system to other family law systems;
  • examine cross-border issues such as relocation and abduction;
  • examine the effect of international Conventions eg UNCROC;
  • examine 'best interests of the child' and its paramountcy in family law systems;
  • appreciate the relevance and influence of social and medical sciences in family law decision-making;
  • look at child abuse in different contexts ie statutory; cultural; case law and examine different standards of acceptability ie discipline v abuse; and
  • become familiar with theoretical and critical debates about laws governing relationships between parents and children and between intimate partners.


20% class attendance and participation
80% research assignment of 6,000 words (presented in accord with the AGLC).
Suggested topics will be provided but students can devise their own research topic with the lecturer's approval.

Chief examiner(s)

Workload requirements

Students are required to attend 36 hours of seminars and undertake 108 hours of private study over the duration of the course, including reading, class preparation, assignment preparation, and revision.