Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (College of Law)

Schools and Centres


First Supervisor

Professor Joan Squelch

Second Supervisor

Professor Kevin Watson


The application of the rules of procedural fairness, which is an element of administrative law, is an area of law that has not been previously examined in the context of government (public) secondary school principals in New South Wales (‘NSW’). Using a basic qualitative case study design, this study sought to discover the processes that these principals undertook in applying the rules of procedural fairness when managing student discipline, special education and industrial relations. The study examined to what extent New South Wales government (public) secondary school principals were equipped to make decisions that are consistent with the administrative law principles of procedural fairness. NSW Department of Education secondary school principals, in-house legal officers and external lawyers were interviewed to ascertain how school principals undertook the complex and challenging task of decision-making in accordance with the rules of procedural fairness given they receive no formal training. The study provides findings in terms of four broad themes which are developed from case law, literature and the study (procedural fairness in policy and procedures; student wellbeing and procedural fairness; industrial relations and procedural fairness; and legal training in procedural fairness) where the rules of procedural fairness dictate the process a government secondary school principal ought to undertake. The study found that NSW government secondary school principals did undertake the application of the rules of procedural fairness to an appropriate standard; however, the ways in which the participants undertook informal learning at the deputy principal level could be an area for improvement by the NSW Department of Education prior to individuals being appointed to principalship to reduce any actual or perceived risk.

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