About

The School offers undergraduate students the opportunity to participate in the UQ Summer & Winter Research Scholarship Programs over the summer and winter vacation periods. 

This experience provides students with the opportunity to work with a researcher in a formal research environment so that they may experience the research process and discover what research is being undertaken in their field of interest at the School.

How to apply

Read the detailed information guide on how to apply for a research program. 

Projects

Three projects are offered in the 2021 Winter Research Program. 

Project title: 

Private enforcement of public laws: a role for bounty-hunters and whistle-blowers?

Project duration:

4 weeks
21June-16th July.

Description:

Background context - Public and private enforcement:

This project feeds into a bigger Oxford University Press book project, currently under contract and due for completion in June 2022, which examines the different ways in which we currently enforce our laws.  Although the modern assumption is that all our public laws, including the criminal law, are always enforced by public prosecutors and public regulatory agencies, there is a range of persistent exceptions to this pattern, in which private individuals are actively enlisted in the law enforcement exercise in one way or another. This range of exceptions seems to be growing.

In the United States, private actors have come to be seen as playing a vital constitutional role in enforcing public laws in cases in which public agency enforcement is perceptibly failing, either because the agency in question is politically compromised, or because its budget is so limited as to disable it from being properly effective. Private enforcement is also becoming more popular in regulatory contexts in Europe, although it is as yet not as fully developed. In Australia, by contrast, prosecutorial powers have tended historically to be almost exclusively reserved to the State, or to public agencies. At the same time, it is nowadays regularly noted in this jurisdiction that public enforcement systems are failing to catch and deter wrongdoers and that they are leaving victims without proper public justice.

Should Australia follow the American pattern and find ways of more actively involve private individuals in the law enforcement process when public systems fail to deliver?

Project Description and Research Questions:

This project will analyse two different types of mechanism that exist in the USA for involving private parties more closely in public law enforcement, with a view to assessing their explanations, advantages and disadvantages and their suitability for broader use elsewhere.

  1. Bounty-hunter provisions. These are provisions under the Federal False Claims Act, which allow private parties both to have full powers of prosecution in respect of public frauds and to claim a share of the litigation proceeds on success. The process is subject to some important checks and balances. It has netted the State billions of dollars since it was reinvigorated in the late 1980s.
  2. Whistle-blower provisions. These are provisions that do not allow private parties actual powers of prosecution as such, but which provide them with rewards for supplying vital, useful information about crimes to prosecutors or agencies.  

The task of the applicant will be to find, collect, organise and assist in the analysis of primary and secondary materials on both types of provisions, with a view to determining the following research questions:

  1. Why do they exist?
  2. How do they work in practice?
  3. What are their main advantages and disadvantages?
  4. Are they potentially suitability for replication in Australia?

Project Phases:

Stage 1 - Data Collection (1 week): Identification and collection of primary and secondary materials and uploading to Dropbox.  This will involve the use of online databases to track both relevant primary provisions and academic and policy commentary about them. 

Stage 2- Preliminary summation and analysis (2 weeks). This stage involves entering all details of the materials found into a suitably-organised excel spreadsheet. Each item needs to be referenced and a brief summary of its content provided. Each item also needs to be coded with appropriate keywords to enable the database to be easily searchable. 

Stage 3- Summary Report (1 week) This stage involves the preparation of a brief report which addresses each of the principal research questions and provides preliminary conclusions for discussion with the research supervisor. The report will:  

  1. Provide a brief summary of  the main bounty-hunter and whistle-blower provisions and the reasons why each one was introduced
  2. Identify the way they work in practice
  3. Identify the main criticisms and supporting arguments that have attended them in legal and public policy spaces.
  4. Identify the main arguments regarding their suitability for the Australian legal and political environment.

Expected outcomes and deliverables:

Expected outcomes of this project are:

  • A major monograph publication with Oxford University Press by the end of 2022.
  • A summary research report
  • A journal article in peer-refereed law journal of international standing.
  • Possible Opportunities for a variety of HDR projects on private law enforcement.  

What the applicant may gain from the project:

  • upgraded skills in primary and secondary source data collection
  • experience in finding and handling materials and data drawn from a major foreign jurisdiction
  • enhanced excel spreadsheet database skills
  • an opportunity to present a summary report (or to share in the presentation of such a report, as you wish) to an expert forum, either in person or via zoom
  • an opportunity to publish a joint article (depending on the nature and extent of your input)
  • an opportunity to discuss ideas about law enforcement with an enthusiastic legal expert.

Other deliverables/advantages:

  • this project will facilitate the production of a major scholarly book (and a journal article) for ERA purposes
  • it advances the objectives of both private and public law research groupings within the law school and hopefully provides an opportunity for collaboration between these groupings.
  • it also connects with a proposed joint research project on private prosecution with Professor Heather Douglas at Melbourne University, that will strengthen existing links with researchers in that institution.

Suitable for:

  • This project is suitable for year 3-5 student.
  • You should have a strong record of academic performance
  • You must be competent in the use of excel spreadsheets
  • Prior experience in working as a research assistant is preferred, but not required
  • A strong background in criminal law and procedure, or in other areas of legal regulation (eg competition law/financial regulation/ consumer law) is likely to be an advantage

Primary Supervisor:

Professor Kit Barker

Further info:

If you are interested in this project and wish to know more before applying, please contact me:

k.barker@law.uq.edu.au

Project title: 

Protecting children’s human rights in education settings

Project duration:

21 June – 16 July

Description:

In 2020, the Human Rights Act 2019 (Qld) came into effect requiring public entities to take into account individuals’ human rights when making decisions. State schools are considered public entities under the Act, and school staff are often required to make decisions affecting the rights of vulnerable children.

The Human Rights Act protects three specific rights pertaining to children: the right of children to protection of their wellbeing and best interests; the right of children not to have their home or family life arbitrarily interfered with; and the right to education.

Children are particularly vulnerable if they have a disability or experience disadvantage. Educators may need to decide whether or not to make a notification to Child Safety in respect of a child who they consider to be at risk of harm. Educators are also required to meet children’s educational needs, and this may overlap with their social, economic and health needs. Special schools play a particularly important role because their entire student cohort may be considered vulnerable.

This project will investigate the intersection between education, child protection and human rights. Educators will be interviewed to ascertain their views on what roles schools, child safety services and other agencies play in protecting vulnerable children, and how they can work together to ensure children’s rights are respected. A particular focus of this research will be special schools, and the challenges they face in protecting the interests of their vulnerable student cohort.

Student scholars will assist by providing a literature review, analysing interview data, and observing (and possibly even conducting) interviews with study participants.

Expected outcomes and deliverables:

Students will gain skills in documentary and empirical research. They will learn about qualitative legal research methodologies. They will expand their knowledge on human rights and children’s rights. If the opportunity arises, the student may have the opportunity to participate as an empirical researcher.

If the quality of the student’s written work is high, they will be invited to co-author the academic paper that results from this research.

This project will benefit the Law School because it involves a partnership with the Queensland Department of Education. The project is currently going through the approval process within the department, and the department has expressed in-principle support for this project. Inclusive education, and ensuring children’s safety and wellbeing, are high priorities for the department, so they are supportive of this research. There may be opportunities for future collaboration if this initial scoping study yields interesting and useful results. (Note: this initial study has no external funding.)

Suitable for:

Students who have completed Children, Young People and the Law or Human Rights Law will be favourably considered. However, this project is appropriate for any student who has an interest in human rights, or applied legal research. Students should have completed at least three years of legal study. A complementary dual degree (particularly those that involve applied research methods), and previous experience in qualitative research, is also preferred (but not essential).

Primary Supervisor:

Prof Tamara Walsh

Further info:

Please contact me with any queries: t.walsh@uq.edu.au

Project title: 

An Empirical Study of Employee Restraint of Trade Clauses

Project duration:

4 weeks
Winter: 21 June – 16 July

Description:

The project is an empirical study of ‘restraint of trade’ clauses in employment contracts. Such clauses restrict the employment or business activities of the employee after their employment ends. For example, they may prevent the employee from working for competitors of their previous employer, or from having dealings with the previous employer’s clients. These clauses can severely affect employees, who may be effectively prevented from working at all, as their skills might only be relevant in the particular industry in which they are prevented from working. Therefore, to balance the interests of employees and employers, the common law imposes limits on restraint of trade clauses; they must be ‘reasonable’, having regard to (among other things) the duration of the restraint and the activities that the employee is prevented from engaging in.

This project will involve gathering empirical data about Australian court decisions on the validity of particular employee restraint of trade clauses. The data will relate particularly to the duration for which the clauses are held to be valid, across (for example) different kinds of restraint, different industries and different States. The data will be gathered solely from published court judgments; the project will therefore involve reading cases and recording information about various aspects of the facts and decision.

Expected outcomes and deliverables:

Students will increase their knowledge of the law relating to employee restraint of trade clauses. They will also obtain skills in empirical legal research, particularly in the emerging area of the empirical study of court decisions. If the project is successful, there is a likelihood of jointly publishing the research with the project supervisors in a peer-reviewed journal.

Suitable for:

Students must have completed Contract I and II. It is also preferred (but not necessary) that students have familiarity with the equitable rules relating to ‘breach of confidence’ (eg from Trusts II or Torts II)

Primary Supervisor:

Dr Andrew Fell

Dr Kate Falconer

Further info:

For further information, contact either andrew.fell@uq.edu.au or k.falconer@uq.edu.au

Applications for the 2020/2021 Sumer Research Program are now closed. Please check back in August 2021 for more information.

Project title: 

Misinformation in Election Campaigns:  Comparative Regulation

Project duration & delivery

5-6 weeks. This project can be completed remotely.
Very occasional request of print books may be an advantage.

Description

There is international concern over ‘fake news’ and its potential effects on electoral democracy.    Election law has been slow to adapt to this problem. However different countries have some pre-existing regulation on their books in this regard. This project aims to compare that regulation, across the major common law/Westminster-derived democracies. The US is to be ignored as it has a very different party and electoral system.

Scope:  
To compare UK, Australia, NZ, Canada, India and South Africa, giving a critical exegesis of their existing electoral law rules against false or misleading campaign speech. 

Partly this is historical and descriptive – these laws trace back either to ‘electoral defamation’ offence in the UK in the 1880s, or to laws against ‘misleading’ election speech and advertising in recent times (that have some commonality with consumer protection law).

Expected outcomes and deliverables

Student will work with two professors – primarily Graeme Orr (UQ) but also his collaborator and co-author Keith Ewing (King's College London). Keith was due to be a distinguished visitor at UQ in April but returned home as COVID-19 restrictions increased. 

The student will learn about comparative legal method, as well as the interesting area of the law of electoral politics. Supervisors Orr and Ewing are well-published in this area.

The student will build on two affidavits written by Orr and Ewing on the countries in question for ongoing Canadian constitutional litigation.
These affidavits scope the topic in some detail, discuss conflicting ‘free speech’ vs ‘good deliberation’ norms, and identify the key legislation in question.

The student will pursue two main lines of inquiry across the countries in question:

  • Case law on the relevant sections, both enforcement (offence or civil electoral petitions) and any constitutional challenges to such provisions.
  • Secondary material (governmental reports and especially academic commentary).

Reported case law is rare in this area (enforcement tends to be in magistrates courts or administrative, and of the countries concerned, 2.5 do not have constitutionalised ‘freedom of speech’). The bulk of the discovery will probably be in the secondary material.

The student will be expected to locate such material, and summarise it in several ‘memos’ by jurisdiction - in table form for the cases, and in more narrative form for secondary material.

Following the summer project work, and after Orr and Ewing write the paper up for a UK journal, the student will be invited and paid to style and help proofread the article (COVID-19 effected research budgets permitting).
The timeline for this is mid-2021.

Suitable for:

Open to students who have studied Principles of Public Law and have a high GPA (6 or above).
Preference may be given to someone with either or both of the following:

  • Previous law RA experience (ideally with reference from the academic involved);
  • Done well in Constitutional Law or Law of Political Institutions (last offered as an elective in 2019), or political science.

Primary Supervisor

Professor Graeme Orr

Further info Questions about this project may be directed to Prof Graeme Orr at g.orr@law.uq.edu.au

Project title

Intent, mistake of fact and autonomous military systems

Project duration & delivery

8 weeks (30 November 2020 to 19 February 2021).

The applicant will be able to carry out the project remotely.

Description

Technologically advanced armed forces are developing autonomous systems – devices and platforms that can operate for periods of time without real-time human intervention. Australia is no exception: the Commonwealth Government is investing heavily in the research and development of trusted autonomous systems that may have the potential to support the Australian Defence Force (ADF) capability in the future. Such systems could assist the ADF in a range of activities, including logistics, intelligence gathering, and targeting.

Autonomous systems acquired by the ADF would need to be operated by defence personnel consistently with existing law and military doctrine. But what happens if, because the operator is mistaken about something related to the system, another person is injured or killed, or property is damaged or destroyed? How would a failure to properly understand an autonomous system, or to predict its behaviour, be legally significant in any subsequent criminal proceedings?

This research project will examine how the requirement of intent, and the defence of mistake of fact, might apply to the use of autonomous systems by Australian defence personnel in violation of criminal law. Using a doctrinal method of analysis, it will consider mens rea and mistake of fact under the Defence Force Discipline Act 1982 and the Commonwealth Criminal Code 1995, and assess whether and in what circumstances a defence member could be held criminally liable for failing to properly understand the operation of an autonomous system.

Expected outcomes and deliverables

The aim of the research project is to develop a journal article for publication in a law journal.

The student would gain the experience of working in a legal research team – the Law and the Future of War research group. The project would contribute to an ongoing research program that is of strategic interest to the School, Faculty and the University.

Suitable for:

The project is open to applications for students who have completed LAWS2113 Criminal Law and Procedure A (or equivalent) and LAWS2114 Criminal Law and Procedure B (or equivalent). Preference will be given to students who have also completed LAWS3705 Public International Law (or equivalent).

Primary Supervisor

Associate Professor Rain Liivoja

Further info

Questions about this project may be directed to A/Prof Liivoja at r.liivoja@uq.edu.au.

Project title

Press Freedom and Closed Courts

Project duration & delivery

8 weeks. The project can be completed by distance/off-site if necessary.

Description

Press freedom and open justice are fundamental to the rule of law and the liberal democratic system. But sometimes courts close their doors to the press and the public. This could be to protect the parties, or witnesses, national security or even – as recently experienced in the context of COVID-19 – public health.

This project explores the interaction between press freedom and closed courts. It will map the various laws, processes and justifications behind courts closing their doors to the media and the public. This will provide the basis for a critical analysis of whether these schemes adequately account for (or even consider) the public interests in press freedom and, relatedly, open justice. Analysis will focus on legal research methods, involving close analysis of statutes, practice directions and case law across Australia.

This research will valuably contribute to a broader program of interdisciplinary research on press freedom and national security in collaboration with Prof Peter Greste (UNESCO Chair of Journalism and Communications, UQ), and the Alliance for Journalists’ Freedom.

Expected outcomes and deliverables

Scholars may gain skills in legal analysis within a complex legal and political context. They will have the opportunity to contribute to policy briefs and possible academic publications, with a view to informing law reform for press freedom, open justice and fair trial rights. They will gain experience in collaborative research across law and journalism and will present research findings to leading scholars across these fields.

The project may lead to RHD research and/or an undergraduate Honours project, and explore potential research questions and methods in law and in collaboration with communications and/or political science.  

Suitable for:

This project is open to applications from UQ enrolled law students in at least their third year of study. High-level legal research and critical analysis skills are required. A demonstrated capacity to communicate in a concise and accessible way about complex legal concepts is preferred.

Primary Supervisor

Dr Rebecca Ananian-Welsh

Further info

Questions about this project may be directed to Dr Ananian-Welsh at rebecca.aw@law.uq.edu.au

Project title: 

Foreign (non-citizen) judges & their judgments in Brunei Darussalam

Project duration

 

The research for the project can be completed online. There is flexibility regarding duration but between 4-6 weeks.

Description

Brunei Darussalam, like many post-colonial nations, utilises foreign (non-citizen judges) in its common law courts. Importantly, since inception Brunei’s Appeal Court has been constituted by three judges from other common law jurisdictions; mainly England and Hong Kong, but also Australia and India.

This model of foreign judges in the highest court sits somewhat uncomfortably in a nation striving for zikir status [which is full compliance with Syariah], and where Syariah-informed laws are increasingly enacted including criminal law and evidence; where the jurisdiction of Syariah Courts encroaches onto the common law courts and the role for Syari’e judges increased.

This research seeks to assess and consider the practical, symbolic and now increasingly contested role for foreign common-law trained judges in the Sultanate. What are the rationales for the continuing use of foreign judges? What are the benefits and challenges of drawing judges from outside the jurisdiction? Do they affect the social or normative legitimacy of the courts? Is there an impact (positive or negative) on judicial independence? What can they offer to a dual/pluralistic legal system? And could their role now be deemed anachronistic or paternalistic?

Expected outcomes and deliverables

Please highlight what applicants can expect to gain/learn from participating in the project, and what they will be expected to complete as a part of the project.   

This project requires the scholar to review and analyse the cases heard in the Appeal Court over the last two decades. It would include the appeal process, the type of matters heard and determined in the Court of Appeal, which cases raise a significant legal question, an evaluation of the judicial reasoning, cases cited [whether Bruneian or from other common law jurisdictions], and any propensity for collective over individual judgments.  

Scholars would gain skills in case analysis, data compilation and would be encouraged to write a report on the findings with a personal evaluation of the usefulness for continuing or discontinuing the role for foreign judges.

Suitable for:

This project is open to applications from students with an interest in other legal systems, especially in post-colonial Asian nations; and/or students with an understanding of, and interest in legal pluralism.

It is for UQ enrolled students only.

Primary Supervisor

Associate Professor Ann Black

Further info Questions about this project may be directed to A/Prof Black at a.black@law.uq.edu.au