Justice Access Research Alert No. 88
March 2021
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Access to Justice

Collaboration through the Covid-19 crisis: lessons for systemic change
T Boyd-Caine, Health Justice Australia, Australia
January 2021

DISCUSSION PAPER | This paper draws on the insights of health and legal assistance services and practitioners and their representative bodies, including those working in health justice partnership and from their services more broadly. Based on engagement and consultations with practitioners, the author notes that, for some people, the effects of the successive crises of 2020’s bushfires and pandemic have been exacerbated by existing, underlying need. People who were already disadvantaged by insecure or overcrowded housing, by precarious employment, by exposure to stigma and discrimination, or who were unsafe in their own homes were hit hard by the health as well as the social and economic impacts of the pandemic. The author describes how health and legal assistance services collaborating around these problems continued to provide innovative responses to rapidly changing need. These adaptations in service systems that evolved during the pandemic can be the subject of research in the future.

Children and Young People 

See also Indigenous Australians
A welcome home: youth homelessness and mental health
C Boyle, Orygen, Sydney
December 2020

POLICY PAPER | This policy paper from Orygen discusses the relationship between homelessness and mental health and the specific challenges that exist for young Australians aged 12 to 25 years who experience, or are at risk of experiencing, homelessness. The author notes that the burden of homelessness is one that falls disproportionately on young Australians. While people aged 12 to 24 years make up just under 20 per cent of the Australian population, they comprise 25 per cent of individuals experiencing homelessness. The paper discusses intervention and prevention mechanisms and outlines available policy solutions.


See also Access to Justice, Domestic and Family Violence, Homeless, Indigenous AustraliansSentencing

Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD)

Issues facing diaspora communities in Australia
Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, Australia
February 2021

REPORT | The Final Report of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade's inquiry into issues facing diaspora communities in Australia was tabled in Parliament on 4 February 2021. Among other things, the terms of reference included to look into: barriers to the full participation of diaspora communities in Australia's democratic and social institutions and mechanisms for addressing these barriers; safety concerns among diaspora communities and means for strengthening the protection and resilience of vulnerable groups; and support offered to diaspora community associations. The Report sets out 18 recommendations and includes a discussion of safety concerns relating to race discrimination and domestic violence. 

Domestic and Family Violence

See also Children and Young People
Defining and responding to coercive control
Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS), Sydney
February 2021

POLICY PAPER | This brief from ANROWS has been designed to assist policymakers developing legal or policy and practice frameworks to prevent or respond to coercive control in relation to domestic and family violence. ANROWS notes that while much of the contemporary focus has been upon criminalisation, there are three interlinked considerations that they argue are key to addressing coercive control: the need for a consistent definition of coercive control and of domestic and family violence across legislative and policy settings, Australia-wide; the importance of building the evidence base on the effectiveness of criminalisation and other responses to coercive control, including unintended consequences; and the need to reform the culture of response to domestic and family violence, in and around the legal system, and in other settings.
Who is most at risk of physical and sexual partner violence and coercive control during the COVID-19 pandemic?
H Boxall and A Morgan, Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC), Australia
February 2021

RESEARCH | This study from the AIC analysed data from a survey of Australian women (n=9,284) to identify women at the highest risk of physical and sexual violence and coercive control during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Logistic regression modelling revealed that, among those surveyed, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, women aged 18–24, women with a restrictive health condition, pregnant women and women in financial stress were more likely to have experienced physical and sexual violence in the past three months. The authors acknowledge, however, a number of limitations regarding the sample mean these results are not necessarily generalisable to the wider female population. The results can be considered to suggest domestic violence during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic was not evenly distributed across the Australian community, but more likely to occur among particular groups.

The first episode of AIC’s new podcast, Crimpod, discusses this report with its authors and the importance of not relying only on police and service data, but also surveys with women who would not necessarily have contact with services. You can listen to this episode here.

Experiences of domestic violence among women with restrictive long-term health conditions: Report for the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability
H Boxall, A Morgan and R Brown, Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC), Australia
February 2021

REPORT | The AIC's statistical report for the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability describes experiences of women with restrictive long-term health conditions at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic who were also experiencing domestic violence. As with the related study reported in this edition of JARA (see previous report above), the authors acknowledge, however, a number of limitations regarding the sample means these results are not necessarily generalisable to the wider female population.

The results can, however, be considered to suggest patterns. Among the 8,000 Australian women surveyed, the AIC found women with a restrictive long-term health condition were more likely than women without such health conditions to have experienced physical or sexual partner violence and/or coercive control in the three months prior to the survey. They also found that women with restrictive long-term health conditions were more likely to report experiencing the onset or escalation of domestic violence in the past three months. It is noted that intersecting risk factors (Indigenous women, women from non-English-speaking backgrounds, and women under financial stress) presented a higher incidence of domestic violence.


COVID-19: Rental housing and homelessness impacts – An initial analysis
H Pawson, C Martin, A Sisson, S Thompson (City Futures Research Centre, UNSW), S Fitzpatrick (Heriot-Watt University), A Marsh (University Of Bristol), Sydney
February 2021

REPORT | This is the first of two planned reports from an ongoing investigation being undertaken as part of the UNSW-ACOSS Poverty and Inequality Partnership work program, and also supported by Mission Australia, National Shelter and Queensland Shelter. Initiated in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the research focuses primarily on the domains of rental housing and homelessness. The report draws on an Australian and international literature review, in-depth interviews with government, industry and advocacy sector stakeholders, a survey of state government emergency accommodation activity, an online survey of private renters, and a triangulation of findings from other renter surveys and data sources. The authors' main aims are to inform an understanding of what relevant policy shifts or innovations have been prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, how these policy innovations have been formulated and implemented, and their impact on both service delivery organisations and service users.

Indigenous Australians

See also Domestic and Family Violence
Indigenous Data Sovereignty and Policy
Edited by M Walter, T Kukutai, S Russo Carroll, D Rodriguez-Lonebear, Australia
October 2020

BOOK | With contributors from Australia, Aotearoa New Zealand, North and South America and Europe, this book examines how Indigenous peoples around the world are demanding greater data sovereignty and challenging the ways in which governments have historically used Indigenous data to develop policies and programs. The authors note that in the digital age, governments are increasingly dependent on data and data analytics to inform their policies and decision-making. However, the authors claim Indigenous peoples have often been the unwilling targets of policy interventions and have had little say over the collection, use and application of data about them, their lands and cultures. At the heart of Indigenous peoples’ demands for change are the enduring aspirations of self-determination over their institutions, resources, knowledge and information systems. 
Building back better: Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service COVID-19 recovery plan
Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (VALS), Victoria
February 2021

POLICY | The Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (VALS) released their plan to provide a strategy for governments to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are not left behind while the country begins rebuilding after COVID-19. The strategy documents make recommendations and highlight key issues across all areas of law: civil, criminal and family. VALS raise concerns regarding increased need for legal services caused by court backlogs, policing issues, homelessness, children in out-of-home care, culturally appropriate services, as well as the requirements to meet the Closing the Gap justice targets and implementing the recommendations in the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

Older People

Final Report: Care, Dignity and Respect
Commonwealth of Australia, Australia
March 2021

REPORT | The Final Report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety was tabled in Parliament on 1 March. In this Report, entitled Care, Dignity and Respect, Royal Commissioners Tony Pagone QC and Lynelle Briggs AO call for fundamental reform of the aged care system. The commissioners note: 'The extent of substandard care in Australia's aged care system reflects both poor quality on the part of some aged care providers and fundamental systemic flaws with the way the Australian aged care system is designed and governed. People receiving aged care deserve better. The Australian community is entitled to expect better.'

The Report comprises five volumes and is the culmination of 28 months of work, including 23 public hearings involving 641 witnesses. Over 10,500 public submissions were received. The report outlines 148 wide-ranging recommendations for change.


See Statistics


Estimating the impact of audio-visual link (AVL) on being granted bail
M Kim, NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR), Sydney
January 2021

EVALUATION | This BOCSAR study considers whether defendants who appear in court via AVL receive less favourable bail decisions than those who appear in person. BOCSAR has found that over the last decade there has been a steady increase in defendants in custody appearing in court via AVL from a Correctional Centre rather than appearing in-person. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, AVL was already used in a third of all first bail hearings in NSW. The report notes that since the pandemic, however, this has increased dramatically, and most bail proceedings currently proceed via AVL. Concerns have been raised that the use of this technology could disadvantage defendants. BOCSAR concludes that they found no evidence that appearing via AVL causes defendants to be less likely to be granted bail. However, they caution that the study should not be taken as an endorsement of the use of AVL for court appearances, or used in lieu of a more holistic evaluation of the use of AVL, without consideration of the relevant costs, benefits and implementation issues.


See Indigenous AustraliansSentencing
NSW Custody Statistics: Quarterly update December 2020
NSW Bureau of Crime and Statistical Research (BOCSAR), Sydney
February 2021

STATISTICS | BOCSAR has released their Quarterly update of people in custody in NSW. The report states the number of people in custody in NSW remains lower than in past years due to pandemic-related influences in the justice system. In December 2020 there were 12,766 adults in prison. This is a 6% decline, or 869 fewer adults than in December 2019. The report notes that the female prison population has shown a larger reduction than average. In the year to December 2020 the female prison population fell by 12% compared with a 6% reduction for males. The report also found that throughout the second half of 2020 the prison population remained steady at post-pandemic levels. The youth detention population has shown even larger recent reductions and is currently at historic lows. In December 2020 there were 184 young people in custody, a 32% drop, or 86 fewer young people, than in December 2019.

Terrorism offending in New South Wales
S Boiteux, NSW Bureau of Crime and Statistical Research (BOCSAR)
January 2021

REPORT | BOCSAR has released a report describing terrorism offences finalised in NSW criminal courts since 2002, and have provided an overview of the characteristics and offending history of those convicted of terrorism offences. The report notes that from July 2002 to May 2020, 72 terrorism offences were proven in NSW criminal courts, involving a total of 48 offenders. The most common offence categories were terrorism planning offences (39%), breaches of control and supervision orders (21%), offences relating to the collection, manufacture or possession of terrorism items (18%) and terrorism financing offences (7%). BOCSAR found that terrorism offenders are broadly similar to each other in terms of their observed demographic characteristics. Most terrorism offenders are non-Aboriginal, male, aged between 18 and 30 years, from an area of socioeconomic disadvantage and reside in a major city.


See Domestic and Family Violence

About this newsletter

JARA is a free email alert service covering recent research in the area of access to justice and legal need. JARA entries are publications identified by Foundation staff rather than the product of a systematic search or review. Foundation staff have produced the summaries based on the original publications. The summaries do not necessarily reflect the views of the authors or the Law and Justice Foundation. Your feedback is important to us. If you have any comments or suggestions please email us at
© Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, 2020.
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