Foundations of Australian Constitutional Government

SEMESTER 2, 2023
CRICOS Course: 096269K
Unit Code: PL102

This unit provides students with an understanding of the basic foundations of constitutional law and government, including our system of government and the progression of Australia from a British colony through to federation and the coming into force of the Australian Constitution on 1 January 1901.

The unit also familiarises students with basic constitutional principles including the Rule of Law, representative government, the separation of powers doctrine, and federalism. It also gives students an understanding of the role of the High Court in interpreting the Australian Constitution.

Foundations of Australian Constitutional Government may be taken as a single unit for personal or professional development or as part of the Bachelor of Arts (BA) course at Sheridan.⁠

Learning Outcomes

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

  • Identify key constitutional principles including constitutionalism, the rule of law, representative and responsible government, and the separation of powers doctrine;
  • 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);
  • Explain how the Australian Constitution provides for a federal system of government, and the role of the High Court in shaping Commonwealth-State powers;
  • Describe the composition and role of the Federal Executive including the Commonwealth Government and the Governor-General;
  • Evaluate the operation of constitutional ‘freedoms’ such as freedom of interstate trade, freedom of religion, the acquisition of property on just terms requirement, freedom of political communication, and the implied right to vote.


The cost of enrolling in a single unit at Sheridan is $850, including all textbooks. It is also possible to audit a unit for $500.

Further Information

Classes will be held Tuesdays from 4.30 – 7.30 starting August 1, 2023. The Sheridan campus is located in Perth CBD close to Central Perth and McIver Stations.

For further information on entry criteria, fees, and application processes, email or call 08 – 6222 4222

About the Course Coordinator

Your lecturer for Foundations of Australian Constitutional Government is Professor Augusto Zimmermann LLB, LLM, PhD, CIArb, DipEd.

Dr Augusto Zimmermann is Professor of Law, Head of Law and Chair of the Research Committee at Sheridan Institute of Higher Education. He is also a former Law Reform Commissioner with the Law Reform Commission of Western Australia (2012-2017) and a former Associate Dean (Research) and Postgraduate Research Director at Murdoch University’s School of Law. He is also the Founder and President of the Western Australian Legal Theory Association (WALTA), a former Vice-President of the Australasian Society of Legal Philosophy (ASLP), an Elected Fellow at the International Academy for the Study of the Jurisprudence of the Family (IASJF), and Editor-in-Chief of the Western Australian Jurist law journal.

A prolific writer and the author of numerous articles and academic books, Professor Zimmermann was awarded when working as a legal academic at Murdoch University the 2012 Vice Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Research, and two School Dean’s Research Awards, in 2010 and 2011. He served on numerous academic bodies at Murdoch, including the Research Degree and Scholarships Committee; the Vice Chancellor’s Awards and Citations Committee; the Academic Council’s Freedom of Speech in Policies and Procedures Advisory Group; and the Academic Staff Promotions Advisory Committee.

In January 2015, Professor Zimmermann was invited by the Tasmanian Chief Justice to address the ‘Opening of the Legal Year’ in that State. He is generally recognised as a fierce advocate for freedom of speech and the Rule of Law, contributing with numerous articles on the subject, including No Offence Intended: Why 18C is Wrong (Connor Court Publishing, 2016), and The Legal Doctrines of the Rule of Law and the Legal State (Rechtsstaat), (Springer, 2014), a book edited by the President of the American Bar Association (ABA) that explores the development of both the civil law and the common law conceptions of the Rule of Law.

Professor Zimmermann is the author/co-author/editor/co-editor of numerous academic articles and books, including Foundations of the Australian Legal System: History, Theory and Practice (LexisNexis, 2023); Christian Foundations of the Common Law (3 Volumes) (Connor Court Publishing, 2018); Global Perspectives on Subsidiarity (Springer, 2014); and Western Legal Theory: History, Concepts and Perspectives (LexisNexis, 2013).

Professor Zimmermann has been included, together with only twelve other Australian academics and policy experts, in ‘Policy Experts’ – the Heritage Foundation’s directory for locating knowledgeable authorities and leading policy institutes actively involved in a broad range of public policy issues, both in the United States and worldwide.