Rare publishing success for law student

La Trobe Law School student, Lesley Naik has had her 2011 Honours thesis accepted for publication in the Journal of Law and Medicine. Lesley’s thesis addressed the adequacy of the law that currently regulates the requirement to seek court authorisation prior to the sterilisation of an intellectually disabled child.

The thesis discusses the lack of legislative penalty across most of Australia to enforce a statutory prohibition against unauthorised sterilisation and why the common law enforcement measures are insufficient.

‘It’s arguably undesirable to prosecute medical practitioners and parents under general assault and battery offences and this measure won’t properly provide a remedy. Intellectually disabled children are also faced with some obvious barriers when it comes to accessing justice,’ said Lesley.

The topic has received media coverage recently due to the current Senate Community Affairs Committee Inquiry into involuntary or coerced sterilisation of people with disabilities in Australia. 

After having studied the Australian laws governing this topic and the human rights issues they raise, Lesley also made a submission to the Senate Inquiry Report and hearings . The Inquiry examined the distinction between ‘therapeutic’ and ‘non-therapeutic’ sterilisations, a topic that Lesley examined closely, as well as enforcement measures.

Dr Emma Henderson, who supervised Lesley during her Honours year at La Trobe law School in 2011, said ‘this is a significant feat for a student’.

‘At the time Lesley was writing her thesis, she was arguing that there were serious problems afoot, and indeed, as can now be seen from recent media coverage, it turns out she was correct.’

Lesley, on hearing that her work was to be published, said ‘I was obviously extremely pleased and felt a great sense of personal accomplishment. I was also excited that my ideas were potentially going to be read by an audience that was comprised of people who are empowered to effect practical change in this area.’

‘I cannot speak more highly of the academic staff and the quality of the teaching that I received at La Trobe University. I was constantly challenged throughout my studies to extend my thinking beyond a technical understanding of legal principles and to consider the social context that surrounds a particular area of the law,’ Lesley said. 

Currently Lesley is pursuing a career in commercial law whilst expanding her knowledge in the areas of health and medical law. Lesley also remains informed regarding issues that raise human rights and social justice considerations.  

Lesley hopes to complete a Master of Laws in the future.


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