Doing Justice Differently

Exploring the feasibility of a community justice centre
for Western Australia

Associate Professor Sarah Murray from UWA’s Law School explores areas of public law and legal institutional change through her research, with a particular interest in community justice centres and the constitutional law implications of less-adversarial curial processes. She is leading this project with the belief that Australia’s criminal justice system is in crisis. “Marred by repeat offending, addiction, family violence, overflowing courtrooms, crippling prison spending and extreme incarceration rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the system is broken,” she says.

She believes community justice centres are a potential remedy. In a community justice centre, the court works with an interdisciplinary team to address the causes of criminality such as:

  • drug addiction
  • cognitive impairment
  • mental illness
  • poverty
  • abuse
  • intergenerational trauma

The community is empowered to become a key agent of change, partnering with the centre to tackle local issues and improve safety and community cohesion. By working together with the community to redesign a bespoke and place-based justice solution, the centre becomes a place of community connection and support. It radically shifts expectations to focus on restoring communities, improving individual wellbeing and tackling the numerous problems faced by the justice system.

Groups that would typically worth together with a community justice centre are:

  • local residents
  • community legal centres
  • support agencies
  • police
  • schools
  • community groups
  • local governments
  • businesses

A community justice centre based in Collingwood, Victoria, has been in operation for 10 years, and positive evaluations have shown community benefits as well as cost savings to the justice system.

This project explores the feasibility of such a centre in Western Australia, where a community justice centre would co-locate a court and key support services in a problem-solving hub. The hope is that such a centre would serve WA communities by improving social cohesion and connection; reducing social disadvantage, crime, and repeat offending; and create collaborative and more culturally safe justice experiences. The project has been funded by a 2015 Institute of Advanced Studies Distinguished Early Career Fellowship, and a 2016 UWA Law Reform Fund.


Explore the feasibility of a community justice centre in Western Australia and how it might benefit the WA community

Examine potential models for a pilot centre in WA, whether in the metro or regional/remote locations

Set out a process for the co-design and governance of a pilot project in Western Australia

Get involved

We collaborate with Anglicare WA and Community Legal Centres Association WA on this project. If you’d like to get involved in exploring how to change the meaning of justice in our community, contact Dr Murray on the details below.

Contact Associate Professor Sarah Murray