Seeking Academic Support

Seeking academic support

by Tiffany P. Monorom

Moving to a new country is a huge step for every international student and it can take you several attempts to successfully adjust to Australian tertiary studies.


With a large workload, heavily structured materials, and the competitive nature of law school, it is not uncommon to feel overwhelmed.


Whether you feel like you are struggling or you just need additional help to achieve your desired results, the ANU offers a wide range of academic support both within the College of Law and within the university.



ANU College of Law

Your course convenor should be your first point of contact if you have any issues with your courses. You can find out who your course convenor is by simply going into your course Wattle page. Send them an email or make a post in the course forum for questions relating to the content of the course, the assessments or extensions.


You can contact the ANU College of Law Sub-Dean, Anne Macduff if you have concerns regarding the program and course structure of your degree, or if you want to request for special examinations and appeals. To make an appointment with the Sub-Dean, call the college front desk at 02 6125 3483. If you have a direct question, email


Those of you who are international students with a language background other than English may be eligible to apply for special assessment arrangements within your first year. For law students specifically, you can enrol in LAWS4209 English in a Legal Context course on top of your other courses. There are no assessments for this course, it is simply there to help you learn how to read cases, write legal documents, and prepare for tutorial problems. Upon successful completion of this course, you will receive a mark of CRS (course requirements satisfied). Plus, you may apply for final exam special arrangements for your other courses, providing you with additional 30 per cent reading and writing time.

Peer-Assisted Learning (PAL) program aims to assist first-year students with their law studies by helping them learn and practice the foundational legal skills that are essential for the rest of their degree. Weekly study sessions are facilitated by experienced later year law students, allowing them to build relationships with fellow law students.


Come and Have a Talk (CHAT) is a mentoring program that teams first years up in groups with other first year students, later year student mentors and a staff member. Social gatherings and discussion sessions will take place within the enrolled group to provide support, resources and advice during your time as a law student.


ANU Law Library

If you want to save some extra cash and not purchase textbooks, the law library offers a two-hour loan and/or two-day loan for most law textbooks. However, there is a way for you to borrow the textbooks for more than two hours. On weekdays from Monday to Thursday, if a textbook is borrowed after 7pm, it can be returned the next morning when the library opens at 8:30am. If you borrow a textbook after 3pm on Friday, you can return it on Saturday afternoon at 1pm. You can also have access to a textbook after 3pm on Saturday and return it at 8:30am on Monday.


You can take advantage of other library services if you require further assistance on finding legal materials and using databases. Law library staff conducts classes for specific legal databases for all first and second year law students. If you have a specific question, feel free to ask our friendly staff at the library information desk.



Law Students’ Society (LSS)

The 2017 LSS Vice-President (Education), Eden Lim sits on the ANU College of Law Education Committee as well as the LLB and JD committee. She has the capacity to assist law students with general academic enquiries and other policy-based issues. You can reach her at


The Education team runs the pre-exam tutorials which are intensive 90 minute tutorials for compulsory courses, focusing on providing you with a skilled guide to approaching the final exams. The tutorials are conducted by students who received impressive scores on their final exams for the respective courses, and those with tutoring experience. Watch out for these sessions on the LSS Facebook page.


I, Tiffany Monorom, am the 2017 LSS International Students Director. My duty is to promote the interests of international students by developing useful resources and organise social and educational events. If you have any academic concerns during your studies at the college, I will be able to direct you to the most relevant services and resources. Email me at You can also read my article on choosing between a single law degree and combined law degree here and my international student guide here.


The International Students team is in the process of organising the International Student Mentoring Program which focuses on helping international students to successfully transition to law school. To become a mentor or a mentee, you can complete this application form. Plus, there will be bLAWgs being posted onto our LSS website, consisting of a range of topics from academic supports to employment and mental health.



Academic Skills and Learning Centre

The academic skills and learning centre consists of experienced advisors who are able to help students with their academic skills and other learning strategies. Individual appointments, drop-in sessions, workshops and self-help resources such as the Turnitin Practice site are available services from the centre for students in all year levels. Find out more at:



Key Takeaways

No matter how tough a law degree can be, don’t sweat it! There are plenty of resources and services available both within the law school and the university to help you throughout your degree, so take advantage of them.


Good luck and take it easy!

Citizenship Cancellation: a new chapter in Australia’s fight against terror

Dan McNamara

With the threat of terror continuing to greatly affect international relations, state powers worldwide are scrambling to increase border protection and counterterrorism mechanisms. This article will consider the effect of the recent power granted to the Immigration Minister to cancel the citizenship of dual citizens.

2017 has been a symbolic year for international efforts against terror. With ISIS still holding significant landmass in Iraq and Syria, coupled with sleeper cells and propaganda regimes worldwide, the pressure is on for domestic decision-makers to protect their own borders. Australia, despite being geographically far-removed from Iraq and Syria, is still threatened by the efforts of this terror organisation. It too has had a fair share of terror-related incidents, namely in the Lindt Café Siege of 2014, where two civilians were killed during Man Haron Monis’ standoff with special forces.

Naturally, counter-terrorism measures have been at the forefront of much political discussion, and the spectrum of responses has been large. Notably, the travel ban instated by US President Donald Trump has been met with an immense backlash due to its rash implementation. This policy was not supported by the US Supreme Court who, at present, continue to block proposed revisions to the policy.

In Australia, a country whose immigration policies are considered to be some of the strictest in the world, also legislate in light of the current international political climate. As a firm ally of the US who are a leading figure in the fight against ISIS, a concern for both countries alike are the implications of having home-grown militants returning from fighting in the Middle East.

One individual that has caught the attention of the media in Australia and worldwide is Khaled Sharrouf. Born to Lebanese immigrants to Australia, Sharrouf gained widespread attention from his prominent featuring in ISIS propaganda videos, as well as an image depicting Sharrouf and his sons holding severed heads.

With individuals like Sharrouf in mind, the Federal Parliament passed the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Act 2015 (Cth). Under this amendment act, the powers to cancel citizenship covered those who:

  • have been found guilty of making a false or misleading statement in relating to their citizenship application;
  • have been convicted of an offence against either an Australian or foreign law; and
  • have either been sentenced to death, or a term of imprisonment for 12 months or more;
  • have been convicted of a serious criminal offence and has been sentenced to at least 12 months’ imprisonment at any time prior to becoming a citizen;
  • have gained citizenship either through migration, or third party fraud; and/or
  • the Minister is satisfied that it would be contrary to the public interest if the person remains an Australian citizen.

Prior to the passing of this legislation, only those who were convicted of serving in armed forces of a country Australia was at war with could have their citizenship cancelled, a power which was never carried out.

Earlier this year, the citizenship cancellation power was used on Khaled Sharrouf, considered by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton to have satisfied the abovementioned criteria. Widespread attention was gained from this decision, with a spectrum of responses by media outlets and individuals alike.

Yet, at present, Iraqi armed forces continue to reclaim Mosul, a city which was once the headquarters of the ISIS regime. In the slow but steady diminution of ISIS’ hold in the region and beyond, the focus will largely shift to the return of foreign fighters to their countries of origin/citizenship. Inevitably, this power will continue to be used in Australia, having a general bilateral support in both the upper and lower houses of Federal Parliament. The implications of the discretionary nature of the use of the power will likely come into play, and contribute to a new chapter of Australia’s legislative fight against terror.

Dan is a final year Arts/Law student, who takes a particular interest in the paths decision-makers take in legislating against terror organisations

Photo credit:

Penalty Rate Changes


It is estimated that 800,000–900,000 workers, will be impacted by the Fair Work Commissions’ (FWC) decision to reduce weekend penalty rates by 25%-50% (depending upon the industry) over the next 5 years. While there is highly persuasive evidence offered by the Productivity Commission and businesses showing this decision will increase employment and economic activity on Sundays, the adverse impact upon many low-income individuals and families cannot be ignored. The arguments for and against the decision are at times hollow, and overly politicised. This article attempts to avoid this debate, but to consider why many employees are so reliant upon penalty rates, when often they don’t work for workers. Ultimately, penalty rates have become the inflexible standard, and not the low minimum conditions they are intended to be.

Penalty rates were first implemented to compensate workers on weekends for missing out on church and other family commitments. However, church attendance is almost a third of what it was 50 years ago, now at 15%. Considering Australia’s current diversity, it seems natural that individuals would have different lifestyle priorities existing throughout the week. Why then is Sunday still held in such high regard? Many people, who study, play sport, travel, and care for family members, may do so on days other than Sunday. For example, there is a higher cost for a university student to work on a Monday when they have class, than on a Sunday when class is off. For families, a parent may wish to work on a Sunday morning, while the other parent supervises young children. This may be far more convenient and cheaper than working a weekday afternoon shift, and requiring expensive child/afterschool care. While yes, the university student may have assignments or social commitments on Sunday and both parents may want to go to church as a family or fulfil other commitments, these rudimentary examples show that Sunday, for many people, may not be the most inconvenient day to work. For many individuals working penalty rates, but not forgoing a valuable personal commitment, their penalty rates effectively are higher wages, at a very convenient time.

Currently approximately 80% of the over 2 million workers paid at the ‘award only’ (meaning 10% of employed Australians are on minimum conditions and wages) are either casual or part-time employees. This 80% includes people explicitly impacted by the reduced rates, who receive the minimum wage, but also hundreds of thousands of weekend workers employed subject to an Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA). These are essentially employment contracts negotiated between employer and employee groups outlining an alternative award. These must pass a ‘better off overall test’ in comparison to the relevant award, as decided by the FWC. Coles, McDonalds and many other large companies’ employees are subject to these conditions, with many already not allowing penalty rates, or be it to the full extent as provided at award. As these conditions are based on the award, upon expiry of the EBAs they will almost certainly be re-negotiated down closer to the latest, lower conditions, as has been alluded to by an opposition spokesman. These employees are not paid primarily with reference to their contribution towards revenue or their value adding to the company. Nor are they paid in relation to their forgone family time, or childcare payments, or other emotional and personal costs incurred when working. With 10% of Australian workers sitting on bare minimum conditions, and many not much better off on EBA’s it is clear that this award wage is now the standard.

It is this standard which is often a business’s first resort in determining what wages to pay, particularly lesser skilled workers. As all businesses operating on weekends have unique cost structures and revenue levels, it is impossible that the FWC’s industry specific awards are an accurate representation of an employer’s true value of hiring a worker. Currently, for businesses where the cost of hiring an employee on the weekend at the award is too high to benefit the business, they will either hire less, the owner will operate the business alone, or not open at all. For these businesses, they may only be able to afford penalty rates on busier days during the week. Businesses however, where the same cost is much lower than the award, can afford to pay employees more, but largely don’t. These businesses are under no legal obligation to pay higher than the minimum, and in these predominantly larger firms, bargaining power is skewed towards the employers, so why would they pay more?

This lack of equal bargaining status means employees are unable to negotiate more personalised conditions. For example, what day their penalty rates should be during the week to truly capture the cost of working at inconvenient times. Or with a more equal bargaining position, feel confident to request that pay be (even only slightly) more related to value added and effort put into the business without fear of being dismissed or rostered on less. The inability of Australia’s current labour market system to facilitate such negotiation has led to this standardisation of the award.

As an employee’s capacity to effectively bargain diminishes, the less their wage represents a product of true personal cost and contribution to a business, and their pay rates will decrease down to the minimum. This, among other factors, is one of the reasons so many people are effected by the FWC’s decision. As they sit on minimum conditions, when the conditions fall, it is only natural their wages follow.

Businesses cannot really be blamed for this however. For most, their primary purpose is to make money, and why would they pay more than they had to at the minimum wage? This is unless there was pressure by an employee reasonably requesting (not extorting) for greater pay or more personalised conditions. As outlined, minimum wages, and rigid penalty rates either advantage or disadvantage both employees and employers. If our Industrial Relations system was able to foster such negotiations, the standard of employment conditions would be lifted well above the minimum, lessening the impact of shocks, like the FWC’s decision, upon some of the lowest paid workers in Australia.

Brave New Worlds: Challenges for Evidence in the 21st Century – A Student’s Perspective

Marcus Dahl

The complicated relationship between the disciplines of law and science is never so openly on display as it is in the study of fact-finding in evidence law. What evidence is allowed in a trial, how it has been collected and summarised, what weight it is given, and how its reliability plays on the minds of a jury are all issues at the crossroads of scientific method and legal reasoning.

In this respect, it was fitting that High Court Justice The Hon Stephen Gageler AC gave a keynote address titled ‘The Science of Truth’ to the conference jointly held by the National Judicial College of Australia and the ANU College of Law, Brave New Worlds: Challenges for Evidence in the 21st Century. On March 4th and 5th, 2017, Brave New Worlds brought together some of Australia’s sharpest academic and judicial minds to address some of the deeply challenging issues that evidence law faces in a modern world of science and technology.

A sample of some of the contentious issues raised are noted here. The first was how transcripts of covert recordings are used in court and how they can be unreliable and contain difficult-to-detect inaccuracies, which risks likely injustice unless independent phonetic science is more prominently featured in the court process. Another related classic example is in the use of less-than-certain DNA evidence, and the issues around the so-called “CSI effect” where juries are susceptible to trusting any forensic evidence as fact. Perhaps more worrying, research around face identification of strangers suggests that even under the best of conditions, our ability to correctly ID unknown faces is as low as 50%, worsening with other-race effects, despite the weight that such evidence carries in court. These sessions were filled with difficult questions that clearly did not have easy answers.

These apparently severe conflicts between research and evidence law can, in my mind, be attributed to two key differences between scientific and legal practice. In science, a publishable theory or method is measured against all existing theories by a high threshold of statistical significance, and its purpose is to improve upon our estimation of facts without making claims of certainty. In law, an admissible theory or method is measured against the legal standard (beyond reasonable doubt or balance of probabilities) in isolation, and is for the purpose of proving facts and subsequently treating them as if they were certain. Science can be published with error bars, confidence intervals, and recommendations for future research developments. Judgments cannot.

A scientific method which is accurate 95% of the time will be rendered obsolete by an otherwise similar method which is accurate 99.5% of the time. The same 95% accurate method, however, might be the only one used for forensic evidence adduced by a prosecutor, and the existence of the other method may no longer be relevant. If a judge threw out relevant key forensic evidence simply because it used an outdated method which was slightly less accurate than possible, then an otherwise strong case could be substantially weakened. What is publishable in scientific journals and what is admissible in court are two deeply different measures.

On one hand, this allows the court system to function efficiently, to hear useful evidence and to get results. If research methods were only allowed if they had been published in respectable academic journals, and expert witnesses were only called if they had the right accreditation by professional bodies, then hearings and trials with contentious evidence issues would rise in costs and would slow down badly.

On the other hand, however, worse than justice delivered slowly, is justice delivered wrongly. The admission of questionable expert witnesses with little or no real expertise, evidence using second-rate identification or transcription methods, or testimonies of eyewitnesses whose identification abilities in similar controlled circumstances are a coin-toss, all of which will be given significant weight by a jury or even a judge without a scientific background, is dangerous.

This appears to lead us to a defeated conclusion: that fact finding in law is, and always will be, less reliable than fact finding in science. Evidence law will not always have the luxury of being scientifically publishable. This truth, however, once accepted, is helpful. Science and law are not enemies and their relationship should not be given up on. Twenty-first century science can be applied to help us understand the justice system in ways never before available to us. Because science and law give different types of insights, they can collaborate fruitfully, and with this sentiment, I refer back to Justice Gageler’s address to Brave New Worlds.

In speaking about the ‘Science of Truth’, Justice Gageler was suggesting how behavioural science does indeed show that we are much worse at forming subjective beliefs about facts under conditions of uncertainty. Reference was made to Professor Daniel Kahneman, and as a student of psychology, I highly recommend his work. We are worse at estimating probabilities than we think. We are less rational than we think. Our thought processes are affected by serious and persistent biases. But this does not mean that we give up on having juries or judges or finding facts. Similarly, we do not give up on forensic or expert evidence because it is imperfect.

Science has a role to play in informing the legal process, and that role is expanding in the 21st century world. If we acknowledge the challenges facing evidence law, we can improve it. Behavioural science research into human irrationality, biases, other-race effects and decision-making can inform how juries are chosen, trained and instructed, so as to minimise human error. Forensic science research can inform best practice guidelines for what types of forensic evidence police collect and what kinds of expert witnesses are called in trials. The legal principles of evidence move slowly, but the content of the evidence itself changes quickly. With appropriate direction, funding, and professional training, the quality of evidence and legal outcomes in Australia can continue to improve.

Much like Brave New World the novel, this conference was a fascinating insight into some of the darker, more complicated aspects of human irrationality existing in a rapidly developing, and increasingly rational, technological and scientific world. But much like the novel, one of the conclusions that can be drawn is one of hope and potential. The research methods and technologies we have created can assist us in understanding ourselves, judges, juries and defendants. Whilst it is true that the relationship between science and law challenges us, our assumptions, and existing ways of reasoning, that relationship also offers us new understandings of evidence and juries, new forensic abilities to identify and convict criminals, and the potential for a more just world. Behavioural science, forensice science and evidence law all have contributions to make to each other and to society.

Marcus is a 4th year BSc/LLB(Hons) student, and is an ANUSA Science Representative.

Photo credit: Brave New Worlds Conference Advertising

Drawing the line: High Court upholds Senate electoral reforms

Cain Sibley, Ken Powell

The High Court considered, and rejected, five arguments against the reforms.

On 13 May 2016, the High Court ruled that reforms made to the Senate electoral process earlier in 2016 were constitutionally valid. The decision underscored that the Commonwealth Parliament’s constitutional power to prescribe the method of choosing Senators is broad. The decision meant that the reforms were effective for the double dissolution election held in July 2016, in which all Senate seats were contested (Day v Australian Electoral Officer for the State of South Australia; Madden v Australian Electoral Officer for the State of Tasmania [2016] HCA 20).

The reforms
In the proceedings, incumbent Senator for South Australia Robert Day (and others) challenged the constitutional validity of amendments made to the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (Cth) by the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Act 2016 (Cth).

The reforms (the most significant in 30 years) amended the Senate election process and ballot paper. In  modern times, the Australian Senate has been elected under a proportional representation system. To be elected, candidates must achieve a “quota” of votes (set by a statutory formula known as the “Droop quota”). Voters have a “single transferrable vote”, which they can allocate to candidates preferentially.

Prior to the reforms, voters could vote above or below the line in the following ways. First, voters could vote “above the line” by voting 1 (only) for a group of candidates. The voter’s preferences would be those of the group’s, which had been pre-determined and displayed on a ticket at the polling booth and online (group ticket voting). This system would often lead to pre-election negotiation and trading between parties on how each party would allocate their preferences to other parties and candidates. Some considered it being susceptible to being “gamed” by micro-parties in a way which “distorted the will of voters”.[1] Historically, an overwhelming majority of voters have voted above the line. Alternatively, voters could vote “below the line” by allocating a sequentially numbered vote for each and every candidate on the ballot paper in order of the voter’s preference (in many States the number of candidates would often be well over 30).

The effect of the reforms was to abolish group ticket voting and give voters the following two options for electing Senators:

  1. Voters can vote “above the line” by numbering (at least) 1 to 6 in boxes which represent groups of candidates. Preferences within the group would be allocated in accordance with the order of the list of the candidates as they appear on the ballot paper. Preferences outside the group would be distributed in accordance with the voter’s choice (if any) of other groups (and the order of candidates within those groups as displayed on the ballot paper). Under a “vote-saving” provision, a vote above the line will still be a formal vote as long as the voter marks at least the number 1 in a box above the line (ie. a voter doesn’t need to allocate any preferences beyond the group to cast a valid vote).
  2. Voters can vote “below the line” by numbering at least 1 to 12 in boxes which represent each individual candidate. The voter orders the numbers in accordance with their preferences. Again, under a “vote-saving” provision, a vote will still be a formal vote as long the voter has marked at least six sequential votes below the line.

The plaintiffs’ arguments and the Court’s rulings
The plaintiffs alleged that the reforms were unconstitutional and sought declarations and writs of mandamus and prohibition. Before addressing the plaintiffs’ arguments, the Court set out and examined the history of the Senate electoral process (which is an informative read of itself). The plaintiffs relied on five arguments, all of which the Court gave relatively short shrift.

More than one “method” of choosing senators
The plaintiffs argued that the reforms create more than one “method” of choosing Senators in contravention of section 9 of the Constitution: ie. the “above the line method” and the “below the line method”.

Section 9 of the Constitution provides that the Parliament may prescribe the method of choosing senators, but that “the method shall be uniform for all the States.” The Electoral Act as amended refers to each of the “above the line” and “below the line” ways of voting as “voting methods”.

The Court held that the purpose of section 9 is to achieve uniformity in the voting method across the States. The term “method” is a constitutional term which should be construed broadly, allowing for more than one way (or option) of indicating choice within a single uniform electoral system. The statutory use of the term “method” has no bearing on the interpretation of that word as used in the Constitution. The two options effected by the reforms constitute a method with a common effect, which gives a voter discretion as to how the voter allocates preferences (and how many preferences the voter allocates). The plaintiffs’ argument contended for a “pointlessly formal” constraint on Parliamentary power.

Indirect election
The plaintiffs argued that the option to vote above the line by marking a square with reference to a political party infringes the requirement in section 9 of the Constitution that Senators be “directly” chosen by the people. The plaintiffs argued that political parties represented an intermediary which meant that a vote above the line was not direct. The Court rejected this, finding that the option to vote above the line involves voting for a group of individual candidates who are individually identified below the line. Section 9 is intended to exclude indirect choice by an electoral college or some other intermediary, which was not the case here (noting that the same term is used in section 24 of the Constitution in relation to the House of Representatives and citing Attorney-General (Cth); Ex rel McKinlay v the Commonwealth (1975) 135 CLR 1).

Breach of direct proportionality principle and effective disenfranchisement
The plaintiffs argued that the reforms and the use of the “Droop quota” formula infringe an asserted constitutional principle of “direct proportionality” and effectively disenfranchise voters who vote for minor parties. The Court rejected the existence of such a principle. The Court ruled that there is no disenfranchisement effected by the reforms, noting voters have the choice as to how to allocate his or her preferences by voting above or below the line. This argument, based upon the adverse effects to the interests of minor parties, was said to be “in truth” an argument about the consequences of elector choice between voting above or below the line.

Misleading ballot papers and breach of freedom of political communication
The plaintiffs argued that the new ballot paper was misleading and therefore infringed the implied constitutional freedom of political communication. The plaintiffs alleged that the ballot paper failed to inform voters of the risk of exhausting their vote or of the various options for voting, including that voters only need to mark one above the line to cast a valid vote.

The Court rejected these arguments, ruling that the ballot paper correctly states the statutory requirements. The ability to only mark one square above the line is a “vote-saving” provision, as distinct from one of the prescribed options for voting.

Infringement of representative government
The plaintiffs finally argued (as a catch-all proposition) that the reforms impaired a constitutional principle of representative government, and with it the freedom of political communication. The Court rejected this argument on the basis of its dismissal of the other arguments (particularly the fourth and fifth arguments, it would seem).

The wash-up
It is difficult to measure the precise effects of the reforms on the 2016 election as it was a double dissolution election with all Senate seats up for grabs (as opposed to the usual half-Senate election), which means that the percentage of votes required to win a seat is half the usual amount. With preferences now solely decided by the voter (rather than preference deals orchestrated by the parties), there was a decrease in overall votes for the so-called “micro-parties”. Voters largely appeared to grasp the new voting system, with the vast majority of “above the line” voters complying with the new rules. The number of voters “below the line” also increased nationally from 3.5% (under the old system) to 6.5% (under the new system). According to election expert Antony Green, despite warnings by some that more than three million voters (for minor parties) would be disenfranchised by the new system, the reality was that only about 800,000 (or 25%) of minor party votes would have been exhausted under a notional half-Senate election.[2]

As for Senator Day, he was in fact re-elected under the new arrangements, although he announced his resignation from parliament shortly after amidst financial and business woes. In a further twist, the Senate then asked the High Court to decide whether Senator Day was validly elected in the first place, raising the question as to whether section 44(v) of the Constitution may have been breached (which relates to interests in pecuniary agreements with the Commonwealth). The High Court’s decision is currently reserved. If Senator Day’s election is found to have been invalid, it will likely result in a recount in South Australia—otherwise, his resignation is free to stand and the resulting casual vacancy may be filled by his party.

Cain is a partner and Ken is a lawyer at Clayton Utz in Canberra. They are both alumni of ANU.
This article was written by Clayton Utz, a Premier Sponsor of the ANU LSS, and permission has been given for its use in this edition of Peppercorn. 

[1] See
[2] See
[1] See