Foundations of Australian Constitutional Government




This is your opportunity to learn about the foundations of Australian constitutional government from one of the nation’s leading proponents of fundamental rights and the Rule of Law.   

Organised and coordinated by Professor Augusto Zimmermann, a former Law Reform Commissioner in Western Australia, this course introduces the foundations of Australian law and government and is particularly relevant for those who wish to work in the public sector or those who wish to be actively engaged in politics and public policy, or indeed to any with an interest in the use and potential abuse of governmental power.

The benefits of completing this program includes the ability to analyse constitutional principles and practices, by focusing on topics such as separation of powers, constitutional government, constitutional rights and freedoms, constitutional interpretation, and the Rule of Law.

Learning outcomes

Upon completion of this unit, you will be able to:

  1. Identify key constitutional principles including constitutionalism, the rule of law, representative and responsible government, and the separation of powers doctrine;
  2. Analyse the role of the High Court in constitutional interpretation including the differing methods of interpretation used by the High Court (literalism, legalism, originalism, the ‘living constitution’, judicial activism, and judicial restraint);
  3. Explain how the Australian Constitution provides for a federal system of government, and the role of the High Court in shaping Commonwealth-State powers;
  4. Describe the composition and role of the Federal Executive including the Commonwealth Government and the Governor-General;
  5. Discuss legislative powers of the Commonwealth Parliament, including a detailed overview of the defence power, corporations power, external affairs power, and the trade and commerce power;
  6. Evaluate the operation of constitutional ‘freedoms’ such as freedom of interstate trade, freedom of religion, the acquisition of property on just terms requirement, the implied freedom of political communication, and the implied right to vote.

Course coordinator

Your lecturer for Principles of Constitutional Government is Professor Augusto Zimmermann.

Professor Zimmermann is an internationally accomplished legal scholar, a prolific writer and author of numerous academic articles and books. He is considered by international think tanks such as Washington-based Heritage Foundation as one of the leading jurists and policy makers in Australia.

Professor Zimmermann worked as a Law Reform Commissioner with the Law Reform Commission of Western Australia, from 2012 to 2017. He is the Founder and President of the Western Australian Legal Theory Association, the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Western Australian Jurist law journal, an Elected Fellow at the International Academy for the Study of the Jurisprudence of the Family, and a former Vice-President of the Australasian Society of Legal Philosophy.

Professor Zimmermann was awarded the 2012 Vice Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Research at Murdoch University. He has received numerous nominations to the Vice-Chancellor’s Teaching and Learning Award at Murdoch University, and was awarded the 2013 Law Lecturer of the Year Award from the Murdoch Student Law Society (MSLS).

Professor Zimmermann is the only speaker to ever receive a standing ovation at a conference held by the Samuel Griffith Society, a learned society of constitutional lawyers founded by former Chief Justice Sir Harry Gibbs and named after our First Justice of the High Court of Australia, Sir Samuel Griffith.

In January 2015, Professor Zimmermann was invited by the Tasmanian Chief Justice Alan Blow to deliver an address opening the Legal Year in Tasmania. The service was followed by a reception at the Supreme Court where he was received as the Guest of Honour by the President of the Tasmanian Bar.

Finally, he is broadly recognised as a worldwide leading expert on the legal concept known as the Rule of Law, receiving a number of invitations to contribute articles on the topic, including a Chapter for a seminal book edited by the President of the American Bar Association (ABA), in 2014, containing contributions of the world’s leading academics in the field, including Professor Zimmermann himself.

About Sheridan Institute of Higher Education

Sheridan Institute of Higher Education is a fully accredited higher education provider in the Perth CBD, offering undergraduate programs in Business, Humanities and Social Sciences, and Mathematics, Physical Sciences and Life Sciences, and postgraduate programs in Business and Instruction takes place in small classes in a supportive environment that fosters intellectual inquiry, equips for professional practice and encourages servant leadership. Classes takes place at the Sheridan campus in the city close to Central Perth and McIver Stations.


The cost of enrolling in a single unit at Sheridan is $790, including all textbooks. It is also possible to audit a unit for $500.


You will be assessed on the basis of in-class test, a research essay and a final examination. Students must complete and submit both the research essay AND sit the final examination in order to pass the course. This is because all the course learning outcomes will not be properly met without all assessment tasks being completed.

Further Information

The class time will be Tuesday, at 4:30 pm – 7:25 pm, Trimester 3 starts on 6 September and ends on 17 December.

For further information on entry criteria, fees, and application processes, please consult the Sheridan Institute website ( or contact Sheridan Institute at or call 08 – 6222 4222.