JSI Seminar: The Modern Approach to Statutory Interpretation – Law School: Events JSI Seminar: The Modern Approach to Statutory Interpretation – Law School: Events

JSI Seminar: The Modern Approach to Statutory Interpretation

JSI Seminar: The Modern Approach to Statutory Interpretation

Speaker: Professor Dale Smith, The University of Melbourne

It is now common, in Australia and in a number of other jurisdictions, to speak of “the modern approach to statutory interpretation”. Many of the details of this approach are unclear or contested. However, the modern approach consists at least of a rejection of literalism, and an emphasis on the importance of considering the statutory text in context and in light of the statutory purpose.

As such, the modern approach can be characterised as a pluralist account of statutory interpretation. Indeed, it is sometimes summarised in the slogan “text, context and purpose”.

In this seminar, Professor Dale Smith identifies three sets of questions raised by the modern approach. These questions concern what, precisely, is meant by “text”, “context” and “purpose”, what role these three factors play in statutory interpretation (e.g. are they relevant in their own right or merely as evidence of something else?) and what should be done in cases where those factors push in different directions.

He argues that, to the extent that adherents of the modern approach have addressed these questions, they have disagreed among themselves about the correct answers, and he explores some of the difficulties confronting the various answers that have been offered to date.


Dale Smith’s research focuses primarily on analytic legal philosophy, especially the jurisprudential writings of Ronald Dworkin. He also writes on theoretical aspects of statutory interpretation and (with Colin Campbell) on anti-discrimination law.

Dale’s research has been published in the Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, Legal Theory, Law and Philosophy, the Modern Law Review and the University of Toronto Law Journal.

Dale graduated from the University of Melbourne in 1998 with first class honours degrees in Law and Arts. He also holds a Masters of Arts in Philosophy from the University of Melbourne and a D.Phil in Law from the University of Oxford. His doctoral thesis was on the implications for adjudication of the debate between moral objectivists and anti-objectivists.

Prior to joining Melbourne Law School in 2014, Dale was a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Law at Monash University. He was a Visiting Fellow at the Surrey Centre for Law and Philosophy at the University of Surrey in 2019, and a Visiting Academic at the Faculty of Laws, University College London in 2012.

Dale is a past Editor of the Australasian Journal of Legal Philosophy, and a past Treasurer of the Australasian Society of Legal Philosophy. He is currently the Associate Dean (Research) at Melbourne Law School.


Thursday 26 May 2022, 6-7.30pm AEST

This event is being held an online and in-person at Sydney Law School. Please indicate your viewing preference when registering.


CPD Points: 1.5


This event is hosted by the Julius Stone Institute of Jurisprudence at The University of Sydney Law School. 


Image: Canva


May 26 2022


6:00 pm - 7:30 pm

More Info



Camperdown Campus - venue to be confirmed


Professional Learning and Community Engagement

Comments are closed.