On-country immersion program builds judicial cross-cultural understanding

In September 2022, 26 judges of State and Federal Courts attended a cultural immersion program in the Kimberley. ALRC President, the Hon Justice SC Derrington AM, joined judges from across Australia to gain greater knowledge of Aboriginal cultures, history and languages.

The program was hosted by the University of Notre Dame Nulungu Research Institute, a Kimberley-based organisation of Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers.

Justice Derrington said that cross-cultural education is critical for upholding judicial impartiality and public confidence in it.

“Programs such as this provide exceptional opportunities to better understand Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ experiences and perspectives, providing an invaluable reference for judicial officers in potential court interactions,” Justice Derrington said.

The ALRC made recommendations in its recent Judicial Impartiality Inquiry regarding the importance of cross-cultural judicial education (see Chapter 12). Attendance at this immersion program aligns with recommendations made by the ALRC to develop a structured and ongoing program for judges which is led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and organisations (see Recommendation 10). This built on similar recommendation made by a number of previous inquiries, including the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1991.

Watch more on the program documented by the WA District and Supreme Court:  https://www.supremecourt.wa.gov.au/T/transcripts_video_2015_2019.aspx

ABC News article: Judges go bush to learn about Indigenous culture, with aim to deliver fairer justice in courts

Download Without Fear or Favour: Judicial Impartiality and the Law on Bias (ALRC Report 138)