mainstream justice and neighbourhood courts

i was watching footage of the protests in the UK from the weekend, remembering wistfully the days when i had the energy to get angry about anything… and then i read this article in yesterday’s Age about the possibility that Neighbourhood Justice Centres and Koori Courts may be closed by the new Victorian state government, and I discovered that my sense of anger is still alive and well.

The government haven’t said that they are going to close the courts, but the state Attorney General, Robert Clark, has indicated in interviews that he wants to ‘mainstream’ the justice system.

From the article:

Mr Clark acknowledged some of the courts had shown good results. But ”the problem with each of them is that they have achieved a patchwork system of justice [whereby] the way you are treated in the courts depends on where you live or where an offence is allegedly committed”.

I find it strange that people think the mainstream courts themselves don’t offer a patchwork system of justice. The moment the mainstream is the only thing offered, those who don’t fit the mainstream are disadvantaged. People rarely choose not to be part of the mainstream [the choice to opt out is a luxury]. The mainstream is not something you can opt into if you’re homeless, have a mental illness, are of Koori heritage… Justice may or may not be a fixed concept [philosophers will argue on that for centuries], but the just application of justice is absolutely dependent on context.

The research – anecdotal and scientific – indicates that the neighbourhood and Koori courts are having a significant impact on the lessening of crime and violence in the areas where they exist. To close them down would be an ideological decision, not a pragmatic one…

I figure Mr Clark was putting out a flag to gauge the public reaction. If you’d like to offer one, his email address is


  1. Lisa Hall

    Yeah cos ‘mainstreaming’ things works so well……especially given the playing field is level and everyone is the same! How is it that we never learn?

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