The search for meaning: Deconstructing fundamental interpretive concepts for first year law students

Jackson Walkden-Brown

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractResearch

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One of the most challenging aspects of teaching first year law students how to interpret statutes is explaining and contrasting the core concepts underlying interpretative criteria – that is, meaning, intent, text, context, purpose and ambiguity. Defining these concepts clearly and comprehensively is exceptionally difficult, primarily because of the interesting and myriad ways in which they interact and overlap in the interpretative process. Judicial and academic explanations of the fundamental terminology are often confusing and contradictory. The purpose of this presentation is to highlight how and why these exceptionally important concepts are so often misunderstood and the impact that this predicament is having on the ability of first year law students to fully comprehend and engage with the interpretative process. Critical examination of the classic formulations of principle espoused by judges and the central interpretive rules laid down in Interpretation Acts will serve to emphasise that our students are being led astray far too often, and that learning outcomes and activities that emphasise the precise nature of, and relationship between, the core concepts is the only way to steer them back on course.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jul 2019
EventAustralasian Law Academics Annual Conference 2019: 'Real' Laws in a Post-Truth World - Southern Cross University, Gold Coast, Australia
Duration: 4 Jul 20195 Jul 2019


ConferenceAustralasian Law Academics Annual Conference 2019
CityGold Coast
Other‘Real’ Laws in the Post-Truth World and was chosen to engage and question emerging dialogues on ‘post-truth’ – their influence on policy and social debate, and how post-truth practices are shaping laws and how truth is and isn’t part of legal and socio-legal dialogues. We intend this theme to provoke questions on whether we should and how we might reinscribe law in post-truth spaces, whether and how laws should be deconstructed, de-centred, and de-colonised, and whether or not our diversity can unite and guide us to reimagine our collective futures.

​The Conference Committee is also proud to be hosting this year’s event as it will be the formal launch of our renamed and restructured legal academic’s association. As resolved at the 2018 ALTA AGM held during last year’s wonderful Australasian Law Teachers Association Conference at Curtin University, ALTA is being relaunched as the Australasian Law Academics Association (ALAA). This conference, the very first ALAA conference, will continue to provide a supportive environment for law academics to present papers on their areas of their scholarship in teaching and research, as well as a great place to develop networks and friendships with other legal academics within Australasia.​

On behalf of SCU’s Conference Committee, we trust all delegates will have an intellectually stimulating and enjoyable time at this year’s conference. We are looking forward to welcoming you to the beautiful southern part of the Gold Coast this July.
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