Publication Details

Cavanagh, V. & Marchetti, E. (2016). Judicial indigenous cross-cultural training: What is available, how good is it and can it be improved?. Australian Indigenous Law Review, 19 (2), 45-63.


Australian Indigenous focused cross-cultural professional development for the judiciary is an evolving area. In other professional service sectors, such as health and education, cultural safety is becoming the benchmark. However, for the Australian justice sector cultural awareness, and to a lesser extent cultural competency, dominate discussion, and cultural safety is only an emerging discourse. Most judicial officers (indeed most Australian public servants and legal practitioners) would be familiar with the concept of Indigenous cultural awareness as part of their standard professional development training, however, the significance of cultural competency, and the application of cultural safety principles are less well recognised. This paper documents the extent to which Australian judges and magistrates are trained or guided in accommodating the cultural needs of Indigenous courtroom participants. In particular, we review and critique the extent to which Indigenous specific cross-cultural education (in the form of short courses, seminars, conferences, cultural immersion tours, site visits, and as contained in bench books) is currently available for Australian judicial officers. In documenting current practice, we consider whether cultural awareness, cultural competency or cultural safety can be achieved by way of current judicial training and court practice guidelines. Taking into account the experiences of all Indigenous participants in the courtroom, as well as the fact that the over-representation of Indigenous offenders in the Australian criminal justice system continues to be a significant and complex issue, we conclude that it is necessary for judicial officers to be equipped with the capacity to ensure that their courtrooms are culturally safe when having to accommodate the needs of all Indigenous participants.