Bond University


In 1987 the Pearce Committee, established by the Commonwealth Tertiary Education Commission (CTEC) to examine legal education in Australia’s then twelve law schools, made the following suggestion (“Suggestion 1"): That all law schools examine the adequacy of their attention to theoretical and critical perspectives, including the study of law in operation and the study of the relations between law and other social forces. This article considers to what extent feminist theoretical and critical perspectives have been incorporated into law school curricula, given the substantial period which has passed since the Committee’s suggestion was made. This is partly in response to the consistent expressions of disquiet from feminists who argue that, stemming from an androcentric perspective of life and law, legal education delivers inaccurate messages about women and is gender-biased. I have limited this study to a consideration of the curriculum of the first year introductory subject taught in Australian law schools. An examination of this subject is important as it is the commencement of an individual’s socialisation as a law student and a future practitioner of the law. In this article, I have identified and considered, from a feminist perspective, the treatment of the legal rules and doctrines normally taught in introductory courses and also considered what may be absent from the course contents. From my analysis, it is apparent that there has been a strong movement toward the incorporation of feminist (and other) theoretical and critical perspectives in the introductory courses. However, there is still a significant number of courses that approach the subject-matter uncritically with very little or no feminist content. I argue, in this article, that a law course that uncritically presents legal doctrines risks adopting and perpetuating the unstated point-of-view of a particular cultural group in our society. I discuss the constitution of this cultural group and conclude, as have others, that it is largely comprised of affluent, educated Anglo-Celtic males. I argue that legal education should be openly self-conscious of the culturally-specific point-of-view of the law, and should recognise and address its own partiality.