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“The British settlers took our land. No treaties were signed with the tribes. Today we are refugees. Refugees in the country of our ancestors.”
Larrakia Petition to the Queen, 1972
This subject is an experiential and ‘On-Country’ learning experience, delivered on site on a chosen First Nations Country, as well as in classes taught on Wurundjeri Country at MLS. Through on Country experience and engagement with a range of organisations and practitioners, students will consider key and emerging issues of access-to-justice that lawyers must critically engage with in their work, with particular attention to First Nations justice.
Students in this subject will consider community understandings and aspirations of justice in the settler-colony, key barriers and debates in relation to enhancing public access-to-justice, emerging justice models and the ethical duties and interpersonal conduct of lawyers responding to these dynamics. As a group, we will seek to understand how to navigate barriers to access to justice together, including by questioning what justice really means and who gets to define it.
The subject will engage students in comparative analysis and critique of access to justice issues in the chosen jurisdiction and Country and in MLS’ ‘home’ context on Wurundjeri Country in Victoria. A series of seminars at MLS will introduce key themes of the subject and prepare students for the on-country component.
Students will then travel to the chosen jurisdiction/Country for approximately 10 days for the place-based-learning component of the subject. While therestudents will visit and hear from a range of justice and human rights organisations, including community, government and civil society organisations, as well as visiting sites of significance.
Students will be encouraged to consider their own positionality in relation to and complicity in barriers to access-to-justice within legal institutions. Students will be able to develop place-based connections and will be encouraged to learn through a variety of modalities, including reflective writing, place-based-learning and discussion.
Principal topics will include:
- The historic and contemporary context of Aboriginal justice in the Northern Territory and in Victoria
- Community understandings of justice – e.g. economic and social justice frameworks, recognition of Aboriginal law and justice systems, land justice and Treaty.
- Access to Justice policy in Australia e.g. publicly funded legal aid, emerging models for legal service delivery to reduce access-to-justice gaps
- The role of Aboriginal corporations and community-controlled organisations contributing to self-determined initiatives in the subject site.
- Recent developments in justice policy in the Northern Territory e.g the Aboriginal Justice Agreement
- Ethical obligations of lawyers to improve access to justice e.g. culturally-responsive and client-centred lawyering
- Students own positionality, including the office of the lawyer and its complicity in barriers to access-to-justice
Intended learning outcomes
On completion of this subject, students should be able to:
- Explain and critique approaches to access to justice, and demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of public policy governing legal aid services provision in Australia, and emerging alternatives to traditional models
- Demonstrate a critical understanding of the formal and informal barriers to access to justice that exist in context, and how these barriers impact outcomes for clients and communities with reference to the subject site
- Demonstrate a critical understanding of place-based and community owned understandings of justice, and how these differ from hegemonic understandings
- Understand and critique the operation of legal pluralism, and encounters of systems of laws within the particular context
- Discuss and critique the ethical and interpersonal obligations of lawyers as well as the student's own positionality in relation to achieving effective access to justice
- Legal and interdisciplinary research
- Cultural responsiveness and cultural humility
- Oral and written communication
- Reflective writing
- Professional conduct and relationship building
Last updated: 31 January 2024