Virtual justice in the bush' : the use of court technology in remote and regional Australia


Courts and tribunals in Australia are making substantial investments in court technology, in particular, videoconferencing and broadband technology, as a way of delivering justice to remote and regional Australia. While the deployment of technology in this way is most often justified on the grounds of cost-savings and convenience, there has been little in the way of research on the effects of its use. This paper discusses issues relating to the use of videoconferencing technology in remote and regional courts in Western Australia focussing particularly on a case study of three remote courts in the Goldfields region. In this region, a high percentage of those to be served by the new technology are Aboriginal people who already experience considerable disadvantage in their dealings with the justice system. It identifies some of those factors that may take on particular significance in the context of the use of videoconferencing technology to take evidence from Aboriginal witnesses. I argue that there is a need to ensure that the use of this technology does not add to the level of ‘remoteness’ experienced by Aboriginal people in their dealings with the non-indigenous justice system, and that definitions of remoteness that concentrate on physical and economic factors may overlook this need. (Author abstract)