National Essay Competition

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Do you want a chance to win $1,000 and be published in ALSA's Academic Journal? Enter into the National Essay Competition (NEC) for your chance to win!

The NEC is open to current Australian LLB or JD students. Students are encouraged to submit an academic paper between 3,000 and 12,000 words on any legal issue.

The winner will be announced at the ALSA July Conference and will receive a prize of $1,000. The top four papers will also receive national exposure in the Australian Law Students’ Association Academic Journal which is distributed to all Australian law student societies. 

The month-long writing period ranges from, Friday 12 April 2019, and will close on Sunday 12 May 2019 at 5pm AEST.

For submission requirements, the competition rules, and marking scoresheet, please see the below attachments. 

Submissions to the National Essay Competition are through email to the ALSA Competitions Officer, Georgina Due, at:


Submission Criteria

NEC Rules

NEC Scoresheet


Matthew Ricks — The Rise and Fall of Legalism (1st Place)

This essay is divided into two parts. Part one analyses the history of how the High Court has interpreted the Constitution. This will involve examining judgments of the High Court in cases that have been the most influential on the development of Constitutional interpretation. For the sake of simplicity, an emphasis will be placed on the dichotomy between the legalist and ‘living force’ theories of Constitutional interpretation that has guided the High Court in its decisions.

Part two endorses an interpretational approach grounded in the legalist theory of interpretation. This argument is based on the Constitution’s construction – in particular s 128 – and on the elements of stability, reliability and consistency the Constitution is designed to imbue. Assisting this argument is a comparison of the Australian and US Constitutions with scepticism placed on the ‘living force’ decisions of the US Supreme Court which the United States Constitution has permitted.

Ultimately, by examining the Constitution’s form, its intended function, its comparison to the US Constitution and the overarching doctrine of the separation of powers this essay argues that an interpretive approach that is focused on the Constitution’s textual construction favours the legalist approach over the ‘living force’ philosophy.


Kate Thresher — Blasphemy Laws In contemporary Australia (2nd Place)

It would shock many Australians to know that the offence of blasphemy still exists in Australia. Although the offence has rarely been utilised it remains illegal to publish words that are scurrilous and offensive against the Christian religion in some Australian jurisdictions. This article adopts a socio-legal research methodology to argue that the offence is no longer justified in contemporary Australia and should be abolished.


Connie Beswick — Modern Australian Labour Laws have a ‘Gig’-antic Problem (4th Place)

The emergence of the ‘gig economy’ and recent growth of non-standard working arrangements presents considerable challenges for the protection of workers under current Australian labour laws. In Australia, employees are distinguished from independent contractors and are entitled to greater protections under the law. Recent Australian case law suggests that workers in the gig economy are characterised as independent contractors, which differs from the position taken in other jurisdictions, such as the UK and California. This essay explores some of the merits and shortcomings of the Australian position. It argues that the current approach is inadequate and presents some options for reform.

Please note that any original work contained in the essays linked above remains the intellectual property of the authors. These essays must not be copied or distributed without the consent of the author.