Transforming the communication involved in justice processes in New Zealand

Ms Sally Kedge11
11Talking Trouble Aotearoa NZ , -, New Zealand

“Half the time I have no clue as to what’s being said but I’ll just agree with it just to get out of there because I’m embarrassed about situations…”

Significant communication issues are faced by many involved with the courts. The implications of ‘just agreeing’ can be grave. People need to fully participate in the talk-based interactions integral to justice and rehabilitation processes e.g. Court processes, Family Group Conferences, counselling.

This presentation will outline some key recent developments underway to address the communication issues faced by many involved with legal processes in New Zealand:

1) Court-appointed Communication Assistants (similar to Intermediaries in some jurisdictions) are now sometimes appointed to assist the Courts to communicate effectively with vulnerable complainants, witnesses and defendants in Crossover (combined Family Court and Youth Courts), Youth, District and High Courts.

2) Oranga Tamariki/Talking Trouble Youth Justice Communication Projects, developed by our team to create accessible communication environments. Our speech-language therapists (SLTS) work in partnership with youth justice (YJ) professionals to enable young people and their families to understand and participate in YJ processes more successfully. These projects have progressed from pilot stage to projects underway in 8 sites around NZ, with more planned.

3) SLT involvement in the development of new justice initiatives, e.g. Specialist Remand Care for young people. In this project, staff are equipped to recognise and address communication needs, and develop appropriate resources and strategies to help young people have a say, understand and fully participate in interventions designed to help them.


Sally Kedge runs Talking Trouble Aotearoa NZ (TTANZ), a team of SLTs passionate about making communication easier for children, young people and adults involved with care and protection, justice, behaviour and mental health services in New Zealand. Sally has been appointed as a Communication Assistant for complainants and defendants in High, District and Youth Court, and in related settings such as Family Group Conferences and Restorative Justice processes. She provides speech-language therapy and professional development for others, and delivers innovative projects to equip professionals with knowledge, skills and resources so people can have their say, understand and effectively participate.

What exactly do speech pathologists do in Youth Justice?: A practical overview

Ms Stella Martin9, Dr Nathaniel Swain10
9Queensland Youth Justice, -, Australia, 10Parkville College, -, Australia

Significant research indicates the high level of (usually undiagnosed) language and communication disorders in young people in contact with youth justice. Emerging Australian research is also showing the benefits of speech-language pathology (SLP) interventions for improving communication outcomes.

Like many jurisdictions in the UK, young people in the Queensland and Victorian youth justice systems can now have direct access to speech-language pathologists. This is an important development for both SLP practice, and broader governmental agendas seeking to implement evidence-based reforms that reduce offending and reoffending.

This presentation will showcase key future directions and goals of speech-language pathologists in Youth Justice settings, including:

  • Providing communication-accessible information for young people within Youth Justice settings. Many young people with speech, language and communication difficulties may not understand the abstract legal language and procedures that occur in youth justice, or the roles of the many stakeholders in these processes.
  • Incorporating speech-language pathologists in Youth Justice’s clinical governance;
  • Raising the awareness of the differences between Australian Aboriginal English, Torres Strait Islander languages/dialects and Standard Australian English. This is important due to the high number of young people in the youth justice system who have an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander background, where English may be their second, third, or even fourth language;
  • Integrating SLP perspectives with educational, health, and youth justice priorities;

Collaborating with teachers, health professionals, and other staff to build connected and coordinated services for young people in custody, that allow for smoother transitions back into the community.


Stella Martin was the first speech and language pathologist employed by a youth justice department in Australia. In 2017, she commenced the development and implementation of the Speech and Language Pathology Program in Queensland’s Youth Justice. She currently provides leadership in the delivery of speech and language pathology services to young people in youth detention and youth justice service centres who have complex speech, language and communication support needs.

Dr Nathaniel Swain undertook his PhD research working with teachers and students from Parkville College, the specialist Victorian Government School that provides education to students who are, or have been detained in custody. His doctoral research evaluated speech-language pathology intervention programs to support young people with developmental language disorder. Nathaniel now works as a Speech-Language Pathologist at the School, providing assessment, intervention, and other support services.

Communication, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and Youth Justice: Findings from the Banksia Hill Detention Centre project in Western Australia

Ms Natalie Kippin4,5, Associate Professor Suze Leitao4,5, Dr Rochelle Watkins4,6, Dr Amy Finlay-Jones4,5, Ms Carmen Condon4, Ms Rhonda Marriott7,8, Dr Raewyn  Mutch4,5,9, Professor Carol  Bower4
4Telethon Kids Institute, -, Australia, 5Curtin University, -, Australia, 6University of Western Australia, -, Australia, 7Telethon Kids Institute, University of Western Australia, Perth, WA 8Murdoch University Ngangk Yira Research Centre for Aboriginal Health and Social Equity, Perth, Western Australia, 9Perth Children’s Hospital, -, Australia

Background/Introduction: Studies confirm high prevalence of language disorder among justice-involved youth, however little is known about the impact of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) on communication skills of this population. There are important implications for communication problems associated with FASD, as successful navigation of legal and rehabilitation processes in youth justice demands effective two-way communication. Examining the communication skills among justice-involved youth with a diagnosis of FASD represents an opportunity to understand language strengths and difficulties among a population where a high prevalence of FASD has been documented.

Methods: Approximately 100 young people sentenced to detention in Western Australia participated in a language assessment as part of the Telethon Kids Institute Banksia Hill Detention Centre Project which examined the prevalence of FASD in youth justice (NHMRC Targeted Call for Research in FASD in the Indigenous populations, #1072072). Language outcomes were assessed using standardised and non-standardised methods and analysed according to the major language groups present in the sample: speakers of: Standard Australian English (SAE), Aboriginal English (AE) and English as an additional language (EAL).

Results/Relevance: The communication profiles of justice-involved youth will be discussed. This will include language strengths identified among the sample, and language characteristics of those who received a diagnosis of FASD. Implications for the young people and the youth justice system will be explored.


Natalie Kippin is a Certified Practising Speech-Language Pathologist, working in adolescent language, literacy and health. She was the lead speech-language pathologist on the Banksia Hill Detention Centre project, a world-first study which examined the prevalence of FASD among youth sentenced to detention. Natalie is currently completing a PhD titled, ‘Communication, FASD and Youth Justice’, for which she is also drawing on her qualifications and experiences in health promotion and as a Youth Custodial Officer.

Communication privilege: could your communication be compromising your intentions?

Ms Rosalie Martin3
3Chatter Matters Tasmania, -, Australia

George Bernard Shaw, playwright and polemicist, said of communication “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion it has taken place.”

If the intended meaning in a message has not been received, that meaning has in effect not been sent at all. In deeply confounding fashion, entirely different meaning may have inadvertently been received. Mr Shaw’s illusion presents daily challenges for justice.

Low levels of spoken and written communication skills are over-represented amongst youth in the criminal justice system. This results in failure to fully comprehend legal process, rights and choice. It restricts expression of personal needs and perspectives. It negatively impacts access to the most basic human needs including maintenance of significant relationships and education.

Paradoxically, very high levels of communication skill are needed to efficiently navigate the justice system and its legal processes. Justice professionals draw upon high-levels of personal spoken and written language skills to first enter, and then work, in this system. Familiarity and fluency with these skills can contribute to an ‘unconscious competence’ in language that can unwittingly open the Shaw illusion to the detriment of justice.


Rosalie Martin is a criminologist, facilitator of reflective dialogue, and clinical speech pathologist of 34 years. In 2013 Rosalie founded a charity, Chatter Matters Tasmania, to bring literacy and parent-child attachment programs to Tasmania’s Risdon Prison. She was awarded 2017 Tasmanian Australian of the Year for the work she began at the prison. Rosalie is grateful for the platform this recognition has given to promote the value of kind communication in evidence-based service delivery. She is ever-grateful to family, friends and colleagues – for nothing is ever accomplished alone.

Behind the Behaviour: Considering the Impact of Unmet Communication Needs in the Justice System

Ms Mary Woodward1, Professor Pamela Snow2
1Speech Pathology Australia , -, Australia, 2La Trobe University, -, Australia

The first step in addressing needs is to recognise them. This presentation will provide an overview of what is known about the expressive (spoken) and receptive (comprehension) communication skills of young people in the justice system. Consideration will be given to how a young person’s behaviour may be masking underlying communication difficulties, and how these unidentified difficulties may have contributed to their pathway into the justice system, via the now well-established school-to-prison pipeline. The presenters will also discuss the impact that these difficulties are likely to have on a young person’s participation in justice processes such as police interviews, court appearances, and restorative justice conferencing, as well as their engagement in verbally-mediated treatment programs and literacy interventions.


Professor Pamela Snow is a speech pathologist and a registered psychologist and is Head of the La Trobe Rural Health School, at the Bendigo campus of La Trobe University. She has conducted extensive research over the last two decades on vulnerable young people, particularly those in the youth justice system, out-of-home care and flexible/alternative education settings. Her findings show alarmingly high rates (around 50%) of unidentified language disorder in youth offenders, and she has published extensively about the implications of these difficulties for early educational practices, youth justice policy and practice, restorative conferencing, and the need for speech pathology services.

Mary Woodward is a speech pathologist with extensive experience in the forensic and psychiatric systems. She has worked in secure psychiatric hospitals, as a Registered Intermediary for the Ministry of Justice, and has been involved in youth justice in both a research and training capacity.  She is currently employed as the Senior Speech Pathologist at the Concord Centre for Mental Health in Sydney, the National Advisor, Justice and Mental Health, for Speech Pathology Australia and has a private practice, Speak Your Mind Services, providing speech pathology assessment, intervention and training within the justice and mental health systems.

Lessons Learned: The Implementation of a Community-Based Approach for Young People in Residential Out of Home Care

Ms Renee O’Donnell1, Mr Richard Watkins2, Mrs Soula Kontomichalos3, Professor Jane McGillivray3, Professor  Helen Skouteris3
1Deakin University, Burwood, Australia, 2Victoria Police, Eastern Division, Australia, 3Department of Justice and Regulation, South East Melbourne, Australia

Young adults living in Out of Home Care (OoHC) are considered to be some of the most vulnerable young people in our community. With their childhoods typically characterised by neglect and/or maltreatment, these young people often develop maladaptive coping mechanisms to manage their complex trauma, including; drug and alcohol misuse, violent and offending behaviour. Subsequently, young people in OoHC are significantly over-represented in the juvenile justice system and without appropriate intervention, often develop complex and serious criminal records. Evidently, a collaborative commitment between key agencies (i.e., residential services and Police) is needed to divert these individuals away from the criminal justice system. To achieve this, Department of Justice and Regulation (DJR), Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Victoria Police collaborated to develop an initiative termed, ‘Community Around the Child’. The purpose of this initiative was to provide early intervention to young people in OoHC who were most at risk of engaging in criminal activity. In particular, this initiative implemented; intensive training to staff on supporting young people in care (both Victoria Police and residential staff) and protocol changes to the way in which members of Victoria Police and residential staff manage young people in OoHC, particularly during incidences of criminal activity. This paper reports on the learnings from implementing such an initiative with young people in OoHC, residential workers and Victorian Police members. These findings have significant implications for reducing the high incidence rate of juvenile justice reports among youth living in OoHC.


Ms O’Donnell is a Research Fellow at Monash University and is presently leading the development and evaluation of a number of interventions delivered within the community sector, for young people who are disadvantaged and marginalised. Ms O’Donnell’s expertise surrounds the delivery and implementation of theory informed interventions that effectively change problematic behaviours among young people

Young People and the Media in a Post-Conflict Society: Challenging Stereotypes and ‘Risking’ Retribution

Dr Faith Gordon1
1Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

The media provide ‘an illusion of “openness”, presenting itself as a forum for competing points of view’, but in reality ‘“discourse” or agenda … sets the limits to what shall and …what shall not, be discussed by society’ (Barrat, 1994: 53).  As Gross (1992: 131) contends, when marginalised groups ‘attain visibility’, their viewpoints appear ‘only within a framework set out by’ the mainstream media.  In critiquing the contemporary applicability of Cohen’s (1972) original theorisation of ‘folk devils’ and ‘moral panics’, McRobbie and Thornton (1995: 568) argue that in contemporary society young people as ‘so-called folk devils’ now produce their own media to counter the mainstream.  This paper will draw upon over ten years’ worth of empirical research into the media’s representations of children and young people in post-conflict Northern Ireland (Gordon, 2018).  Further, the research explores children and young people’s creation of their own forms of media to challenge negative portrayals (Gordon, 2018).  In deconstructing McRobbie and Thornton’s (1995) argument, this paper proposes that it appears not to consider how significant consensus and dominant ideology are to the overall treatment of young people; in light of their position in contemporary society they remain a group with limited agency.  Drawing on empirical findings, this paper will demonstrate that previous research fails to assess whether the production of alternative forms of media have any impact on mainstream media representation of youth, and on societal reaction (Gordon, 2018).


Dr. Faith Gordon is a Lecturer in Criminology at Monash University, Director of the  Youth Justice Network and Research Associate of the Information Law & Policy Centre, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, London.  Previously Faith was a Lecturer at the University of Westminster. Faith’s sole-authored monograph for Palgrave Macmillan’s Socio-Legal Series was derived in a decade’s worth of research into the media representations of children and young people.  Faith regularly advises the children’s organisations and participated in drafting the Alternative Report for submission to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.


Policing & Desire

Tallace Bissett2, Dr Peta Malins1
1Rmit University, Melbourne, Australia, 2University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

In April 2009, Zacharia Matiang was at home with his friends and family, when police, following up on a report that an ‘African’ boy had stolen some chips, arrived and sprayed them with capsicum spray at close range. More spray was discharged into the house, affecting Matiang’s mother, his cousin, siblings (including a 3 and 4 year old) and his cousin’s three month old infant (Hewitt, 2011; Milman, 2013; OPI, 2011). On a hot January day in 2009, Gemma Thoms, 17, was queuing up to enter a music festival with her friends, when she became aware that police with sniffer dogs were searching attendees for drugs. Having already consumed one of her three ecstasy pills, she hurriedly took the other two, become quickly ill and was transported to hospital where she died the following day (Coronors Court WA 2013).

These two incidents, despite their differences, are part of a much wider story of harmful police engagements with young people. So far, these problems have primarily been conceptualised in legal or public health related terms. In this paper we sketch out how Deleuze and Guattari’s poststructural concept of desire might help us to account for the affective intensity of these events. In our Deleuzian account, desire circulates in policing assemblages, both enabling – and blocking – a range of bodily capacities and affects. Taking account of desire in policing – both in its molar (sedimented, historical, representational) and molecular (chaotic, disruptive, enabling) formations – offers a new lens on persistent policing relations of domination.


Tallace Bissett is a doctoral candidate at the University of Melbourne writing about policing of African-background young men in Melbourne. She was brought to this topic through her experience as a legal student volunteer with the Flemington and Kensington Community Legal Centre and as a criminal defence lawyer with the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service. Despite this legal background, her interest is primarily in telling the stories that criminal lawyers and civil law police accountability actions cannot tell.

Dr Peta Malins is a lecturer in Criminology and Justice Studies at RMIT University, Melbourne. Her research focuses on the unintended affects of drug interventions, with a focus on harm reduction, education and policing. Having previously worked at the City of Melbourne in drug policy and syringe disposal, as an outreach NSP worker, and a volunteer with the DanceWize peer-education program, she is fascinated by the intersections between theory and practice, and the complex connections between bodies, cultural representations and space in enactments of harm. She is currently working on projects regarding school-based drug education, overdose memorials, and drug-detection dogs.

Policing the crisis? African youth, crime, media and policing in Melbourne

A/Prof. Leanne Weber1, Dr Kathryn Benier1, Dr Jarrett Blaustein1, Dr Diana Johns2, Dr  Sara Maher1, A/Prof Rebecca Wickes1
1Monash University, Clayton, Australia, 2University of Melbourne, Carlton, Australia

Four decades ago legendary British cultural theorist Stuart Hall and colleagues published their landmark text Policing the Crisis. Through a series of theoretically eclectic analyses they charted the creation of a racialised and politicised media discourse about ‘mugging’ that legitimated a wave of intensive policing directed against a new generation of Black British citizens. At the time of writing, the upcoming Victorian state election promises to reignite similarly racialised debates about ‘African gangs’ and emotionally charged crimes such as ‘home invasions’ that resonate with this classic analysis.

In this session we draw inspiration from this landmark inquiry, while not attempting to recreate it. The panel, consisting of Monash Criminology and Melbourne University academics, their community research partners and members of affected communities, will give a series of very short presentations highlighting the media construction of a ‘crisis’ of African youth crime in Melbourne and the impacts of this racialised and politicised discourse on criminal justice policies, policing practice and community dynamics. Our intention is not to theorise or present a grand narrative, but rather to open for critical discussion a series of urgent and practical concerns that threaten community peace and cohesion.

The session will centre around three ‘collaborative conversations’, each of which will begin with brief comments from researchers and members of affected communities designed to spark a critical and participatory discussion. The conversation topics are (1) crime and the media (2) crime and community perceptions (3) crime and policing, all with a focus on ‘African’ communities in Melbourne.


Kathryn Benier is a Lecturer in Criminology in the School of Social Sciences at Monash University. Her research focus is urban criminology and the neighbourhood ecology of crime. In particular, Kathryn’s work focuses on hate crime and the impact of immigration and ethnic diversity on social relationships, cohesion and sense of belonging over time. She also has a research interest in family and domestic violence, with a strong focus on the geospatial distribution of offences and the consequences of victimisation. Kathryn has an interest in quantitative methodology, and extending new statistical techniques in other fields into criminological research.

Jarrett Blaustein is a lecturer in Criminology in the School of Social Sciences at Monash University and the Major Convener for Criminology. His research currently focuses on four areas: Crime, development and security in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; Global mobility of crime control policies; Secondary harm mitigation in the context of international drug law enforcement; Examining the ‘life-cycle’ of youth-related public disorder in Victoria, Australia. Jarrett’s sole-authored book titled Speaking Truths to Power: Policy Ethnography and Police Reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina was published in 2015 by Oxford University Press.

Diana Johns joined the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne as lecturer in criminology in 2016. Her book, Being and Becoming an Ex-Prisoner, based on her PhD research, was published in 2017 by Routledge as part of the International Series on Desistance and Rehabilitation.  Her (mainly qualitative) research interests range from restorative and therapeutic approaches to justice to vulnerable people’s experience of criminal justice and legal processes. Diana’s current research is focused on South Sudanese young people’s experience of demonising media narratives since Moomba 2016.

Sara Maher is an adjunct Research Fellow at Monash Migration and Inclusion Centre (MMIC). Her research focuses on the post-settlement lives of African migrant women, addressing transnationalism and belonging in Australia. She is a Churchill Fellow, leads the South Sudan Diaspora Impacts project, (Cambridge, Juba & Monash Universities), addressing the diaspora relationship between Melbourne and Juba and has recently worked on the Victoria Police African Taskforce Implementation Plan. Her work is grounded in a previous career in the refugee settlement sector in Melbourne.

Leanne Weber is Associate Professor of Criminology, co-Director of the Border Crossing Observatory and Australian Research Council Future Fellow in the School of Social Sciences at Monash University. She researches border control and migration policing using criminological and human rights frameworks. Her books include The Routledge International Handbook on Criminology and Human Rights, 2017 (with Elaine Fishwick and Marinella Marmo), Policing Non-Citizens, 2013 (Routledge), Stop and Search: Police Power in Global Context, 2013 (Routledge, with Ben Bowling) and Globalization and Borders: Death at the Global Frontier, 2011 (Palgrave, with Sharon Pickering).

Rebecca Wickes is an Associate Professor at the School of Social Sciences at Monash University where she is the Director of the Monash Migration and Inclusion Centre and the convener of the criminology program. She is also the Chief Investigator of the Australian Community Capacity Study (ACCS), a multi-million, multi-site, longitudinal study of 298 urban neighbourhoods in Victoria and Queensland. Her research focuses on the spatial concentration of social problems with a particular focus on how physical and demographic changes in urban communities influence social cohesion, the informal regulation of crime, crime and victimisation.

The Lives and Adjustment Patterns of Juvenile “Lifers”

Ms Simone Deegan1
1Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia

This project aims to broaden understanding of the challenges faced by juveniles who are processed by the adult system for the offence of murder. While these individuals may initially serve time in a youth facility, this arrangement is destined to be (comparatively) short-lived.  With this in mind, the current research focuses on those life-sentenced juveniles who have since attained 18 years of age and are incarcerated in an adult facility or are on parole in the community. Through semi-structured interviews, features of their childhood that may explain, though not justify, their subsequent criminal actions will be explored as well as more recent attempts to negotiate both juvenile and adult prison environments and or parole/community re-entry.

The chief concept underpinning this research is change: specifically, the capacity and proclivity of young male (ex)prisoners to meaningfully attenuate the pains of imprisonment and “spoiled identity” which are inextricably linked to a life sentence in order to plan positively for their futures.  Interviews with nominated significant others (i.e. parent, grandparent, sibling, friend, partner etc.) will document the circumstances associated with the intensification of serious offending in each young person’s life. It will also identify the commitment they have towards supporting the prisoner in their quest to build a positive future and how this may fluctuate over a long or indeterminate sentence.


Simone has worked in the criminal justice system for 13 years as a criminal lawyer and as project officer on the (completed) project Generativity in Young Male (ex)Prisoners: Caring for Self, Other and Future within Prison and Beyond with Professor Mark Halsey. Their book, Young Offenders: Crime, Prison and Struggles for Desistance was published in 2015. Her interest is in young people, violent crime and the prison.


The society is devoted to promoting criminological study, research and practice in the region and bringing together persons engaged in all aspects of the field. The membership of the society reflects the diversity of persons involved in the field, including practitioners, academics, policy makers and students.

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