Indigenous people and legal problem resolution


We know that in Australia legal problems are widespread and if they are not resolved, there are health, social and economic consequences. This paper examines the experience of Indigenous Australians in relation to the resolution of legal problems in comparison with non-Indigenous people. Using the Legal Australia-Wide (LAW) Survey national dataset, the findings show that Indigenous respondents, especially those who are multiply disadvantaged,  were significantly more likely than others to have unresolved crime problems. For those whose matters were resolved, significantly more Indigenous respondents had their problems finalised through court, tribunal or formal dispute resolution processes.

The reasons for these results are not clear, but may include the extra time it takes to resolve matters with Indigenous people because of language and cultural barriers, problems caused by hearing loss, the different experiences of Indigenous people which lead to formal dispute resolution (known to produce lower finalisation numbers), fraught relationships between Indigenous communities and the police, and differences in perceived resolution of crime problems.

The findings point to the need for accessible and responsive legal assistance services for multiply disadvantaged Indigenous Australians. For instance, culturally appropriate assistance to help clarify the ongoing status of alleged offending, additional assistance for the multiply disadvantaged and improved monitoring of the justice system.

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