Architecting Aboriginal Access to Justice: The Courts as Doors to the Law
Murphy, Julian R. ‘Architecting Access to Justice: Courts as Doors to the Law.’ Flinders Law Journal 18.2 (2016): 269-294
26 Pages Posted: 14 Mar 2018 Last revised: 16 Sep 2018
Date Written: January 1, 2016
The physical space of the law court is the site at which the abstract giant of our legal system is physically manifest and opened up to citizens. As such, it is of paramount importance that these places are welcoming and accessible, both physically and psychologically. This article will employ an amalgam of architectural theory and legal scholarship to determine how successfully our law courts are fulfilling their brief of opening the door to the law. Discussion will cover both the aesthetics and functionality of these buildings, particularly their facades, entrances, waiting areas and, of course, the court rooms proper. With reference to architectural and spatial theorists it will be posited that the physical organisation of these court buildings and rooms has consequences for the individuals entering, and hoping to gain entry, to them, particularly those from more vulnerable or disadvantaged classes.
The courthouse is the geographic site at which the abstract Leviathan of Australia’s settler legal system is made visible. It is also the portal through which citizens may access this legal system in order to vindicate or protect their rights within it. Given the modern concern of the Anglo Australian legal superstructure with ‘access to justice’, it is of paramount importance that courthouses are welcoming and accessible, both physically and psychologically. This article employs an amalgam of architectural and legal scholarship to assess how successfully Australian courthouses are fulfilling their brief of opening the door of the Law to one particular segment of society, Aboriginal people. Discussion covers both the aesthetics and functionality of these buildings, particularly their forecourts, facades, entrances, holding cells and, of course, the court rooms proper. It is contended that by designing courthouses that are sensitive to the needs of Aboriginal people – courts designed in the mode of ‘Aboriginal architecture’ – some of the legal wrongs of colonialism might be incrementally righted.
Keywords: court architecture; Indigenous Australians; access to justice
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