Research and practice come together to explore court reforms

The book gives insights into the perspectives of various court users.

A new book exploring the controversies, challenges and changes of Australia's courts is the first comprehensive collection to canvas the courts' diversity and provide a detailed critical analysis of contemporary issues, debates and reforms.

Senior Lecturer in Criminology and Criminal Justice Dr Marg Camilleri has co-edited Australian Courts: Controversies, Challenges and Change, which includes contributions from researchers and practitioners with a unique perspective of courts in Australia. Dr Camilleri co-edited the book with Senior Lecturer in Criminology at the University of New England, Dr Alistair Harkness.

The book covers courts across state, territory and national jurisdictions, including coroners' courts, family courts, criminal, civil courts, Indigenous courts and problem-solving courts.

Dr Camilleri says the idea for the book came about two years ago when she identified many resources focused on one court or one aspect of court, but there needed to be a reference that brought issues together from different courts around Australia.

"Each of the chapters has an academic piece and a contribution from a practitioner. The practitioner provides an on-the-ground perspective of how the issues raised in the academic piece play out in practice," Dr Camilleri said.

"What we're hoping to do with the book is to discuss the range of controversies and challenges for courts across Australia and the provide some suggestions for reforms.

Dr Camilleri says the book provides insights into the perspectives of various court users, including people with disabilities, Indigenous Australians, young people and victims of crime.

"In a chapter looking at wrongful convictions, the practitioner in that space – a lawyer – has been working pro-bono on a wrongful conviction case of an Indigenous man for the last 30 years.  Successive Queensland governments have not awarded him any compensation.

She says the book also highlights issues for media reporting on specific cases and the dilemmas of juries accessing social media. Recent high-profile cases in Australia put the issues in the spotlight.

"We also wanted to include the Civil Court because it tends to get neglected, but there are issues. There are suggestions that it needs a complete overhaul to make it accessible by reducing costs and complexities," Dr Camilleri said.

"Each chapter provides opportunities for further debate regarding future reform directions to improve the efficacy, equity and accessibility of Australian courts. This collection serves as an international ready reference for students, scholars and practitioners alike and indeed anyone interested in the justice system."

The launch for Australian Courts: Controversies, Challenges and Change is on Wednesday, 5 April 2023, between 5:30 pm and 6:30 pm (AEST) on Zoom.

Justice Jenny Blokland from the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory and Justice Glenn Martin AM from the Supreme Court of Queensland will officially launch the book. There will be presentations from Professor Lisa Waller (Communications, RMIT University) and Associate Professor Joe McIntyre (Law, University of South Australia).

The second half of the event will be an opportunity for questions, answers and general discussion facilitated by Dr Marg Camilleri and Dr Alistair Harkness.

To register, visit the Eventbrite page for the launch. More information about the book can be found on the publisher's website.

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