Access to Justice –The South Australian Journey: Skilled Communication Assistance in the criminal justice space.

Ms Cheryll Rosales1, Ms Jennifer  Jacobs1, Ms Tanya Turner1

1Uniting Communities, Adelaide, Australia


Our adversarial legal system puts those with complex communication needs (CCN), due to disability, illness or injury at significant disadvantage. The Communication Partner Service (the Service), funded until February 2020 by the SA Attorney General’s Department, was created to fulfil some of the priority actions identified in the Disability Justice Plan 2015 – 2017 (the Plan).  The Plan highlighted significant gaps in the system, such as inadequate support for those with CCN to give evidence limiting their ability to access justice.


The Service utilised a multi-pronged approach.  Highly skilled volunteers were trained to provide communication assistance between individuals with CCN and criminal justice during the giving of evidence at police interviews, legal meetings and court proceedings.  Resources were developed, such as quick look guides and workshops for criminal justice personnel on how to identify CCN and make reasonable adjustments to communication.


Without adjustments those with CCN found it difficult to engage effectively in the criminal justice process. With adjustments to how information was presented people with CCN had increased capacity to provide best evidence.  Since July 2016 the Service has had over 300 contacts with the criminal justice sector.


The Service is ending, there has been no identified replacement service. Through a poster presentation we share our successes, what we have learned, resources we have developed, relevant legislation in South Australia and what work still needs to be done.


Cheryll Rosales currently works with the Communication Partner Service at Uniting Communities.  She is a Developmental Educator and was a teacher of students with special needs for ten years, specialising in functional life skills, positive behaviour support and AAC.  Cheryll holds qualifications in Education, Law and International Relations.

Jen Jacobs works with the Communication Partner Service at Uniting Communities.  She worked as a speech pathologist for 16 years in a variety of settings, including rehabilitation with adults with acquired brain injury and community health with children and families. Jen holds qualifications in Speech Pathology and Volunteer Management.

Tanya Turner works with the Communication Partner Service at Uniting Communities and has been a Communication Partner since the inception of the Service.  She has qualifications in Counselling, and is completing a Master’s Degree in Social Work.  She is strongly committed to social justice and empowering individuals, families and communities.

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