Dignity and the Australian Constitution

(2020) 42 Sydney Law Review 369–94

26 Pages Posted: 11 Feb 2021

See all articles by Scott Stephenson

Scott Stephenson

University of Melbourne - Law School

Date Written: December 2020


Today dignity is one of the most significant constitutional principles across the world given that it underpins and informs the interpretation of human rights. This article considers the role of dignity in the Australian Constitution. The starting point is the 2019 decision of Clubb v Edwards, which marked the arrival of dignity in Australia. In that case, the High Court of Australia found that laws restricting protests outside of abortion facilities were justified under the implied freedom of political communication partly on the basis that they protect the dignity of persons accessing those facilities. The article argues that dignity was used in two ways in the Court’s decision: first, as a means of distinguishing natural persons from corporations; and second, as one purpose that a law can pursue that is compatible with the implied freedom. The article develops and defends the first use of dignity, while identifying some challenges that arise with the second use of dignity.

Keywords: Australia, constitutional law, dignity, freedom of political communication

Suggested Citation

Stephenson, Scott, Dignity and the Australian Constitution (December 2020). (2020) 42 Sydney Law Review 369–94, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3771010

Scott Stephenson (Contact Author)

University of Melbourne - Law School ( email )

University Square
185 Pelham Street, Carlton
Victoria, Victoria 3010

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