Developing a legislation testing lab that will better enable law reform to achieve its policy objectives

Duration: February 2014 to March 2015

Research team

  • Professor Wendy Larcombe, Law, UoM
  • Dr Natalia Hanley, Arts, UoM
  • Dr Anastasia Powell, Global, Urban and Social Studies, RMIT
  • Dr Nicola Henry, Humanities and Social Sciences, La Trobe
  • Dr Chris Atmore, Senior Policy Adviser, Federation of Community Legal Centres

Project summary

Legislation is not always interpreted or applied in ways that were intended by its political proponents and key stakeholders. Rape laws in Victoria are a prime example. Numerous legislative amendments in past decades have not achieved desired outcomes and, in some instances, have had unfortunate unintended consequences. Further reforms are now being developed by the Department of Justice to remedy identified problems.

This project proposes to use the 2014 reform of Victoria's sexual offences as an opportunity to develop a 'legislation testing lab' in which the interpretation and application of key components of proposed law reforms would be 'road tested' and evaluated before their implementation.

In this way, in addition to making a significant contribution to the reform of sexual offences in Victoria, this project will enable the research team to design a pioneering methodology that could be applied to improve the effectiveness of law reform in a range of fields. Given the significant costs incurred by both individuals and the community when law reform does not operate as intended, development of an empirical 'testing lab' for legislative proposals is long overdue and has the potential to become an essential element of law reform processes nationally and internationally.


Making Good Law: Research and Law Reform

August 2015: Wendy Larcombe, Natalia Hanley, Bianca Fileborn, Nicola Henry and Anastasia Powell publish a report about the role that research plays in improving law-making.

Research Program

Knowledge and Expertise