Ep 2 – The Adversarial System


Barrister Julian Burnside QC, Former Justice of the High Court Michael Kirby and Justice Susan Kenny, the Federal Court of Australia, explain the adversarial system, its good and bad points.


Lizzie O’Shea points out that our system of law is not the only one.

Barrister Julian Burnside QC explains how the adversarial system works, using the metaphor of a sport game. There are two opposing sides and an impartial umpire.

Former Justice of the High Court Michael Kirby compares our adversarial system to the European inquisitorial system. He points out that while our system is a good one, its downfall is that it is very expensive.

Justice Susan Kenny, the Federal Court of Australia comments that one of the problems of trials becoming increasingly expensive is that she no longer sees as many small cases. This is unfortunate as the smaller cases can often tested the validity of the existing law.

Julian Burnside QC suggests a scenario that involves using pre-judgement, and one that doesn’t. He asks, what is more important, coming to the right solution, or using the right method?

Lizzie O’Shea wraps up by reminding us what defines the adversarial system.

Curriculum Areas

Years 9/10 civics and citizenship education curriculum in relation to the theme of Law and Citizens.

Years 11/12 Legal Studies
Unit 1: Guilt and liability, Area of study 1, Legal Foundations.

Preliminary course: Part I: The legal system.
HSC course: Part I of the core – Crime, 3. Criminal trial process. And 4. Sentencing and punishment.

Stage 1 – Topic 4: Justice and Society, What features of the adversary system of trial provide for a just outcome?

Core area of study: The legal system, How are disputes resolved and decisions reviewed?

3. Dispute resolution Processes, The Adversary Trail System

Introduction to Legal Systems