Providing a Voice for the Vulnerable? Communication Assistance for Vulnerable Parties in the South Australian Justice System

The South Australian Law Reform Institute (SALRI) will be visiting Port Pirie and Port Augusta on 24-26 March 2021 to consult with the community on its current project which is examining the role and use of communication partners (also called intermediaries) in the South Australian legal system.

The role of the communication partner is to support parties with complex communication needs to provide their best quality evidence, both in and out of court. A complex communication need may include communication difficulties caused by age, disability, mental health concerns, or cultural differences.

Teddy bear and legal scales

SALRI is an independent law reform body based at the Adelaide University Law School. Dr David Plater (SALRI Deputy Director), the Hon Geoff Muecke (former Chief Judge of the District Court and Adjunct Professor at the Adelaide Law School), Dr Mark Giancaspro, Anita Brunacci and Brooke Washusen (SALRI researchers) will be speaking to a range of interested community members, practitioners and community organisations in Port Pirie and Port Augusta. 

Ms Washusen explained: 

'SALRI carries out extensive research and speaks widely to interested parties, experts and the community and decides if it should recommend any changes to present law and practice. It is then up to the Government and Parliament to ultimately decide on accepting any SALRI recommendation.

SALRI is keen to hear from you during our trip and we are happy to meet any interested party in Port Augusta or Port Pirie - just get in touch on Ms Washusen

Dr Plater noted this is a topical reference. 

'The communication partner model was introduced in South Australia with all party support in 2016 as part of the Disability Justice Plan to assist persons with complex communication needs, whether suspects, defendants, victims or witnesses. It is very important to promote equal access to justice, but the role has been used surprisingly little to date and part of this reference is for SALRI to examine the reasons for this limited uptake.' 

SALRI is especially committed to consulting with rural, regional and Aboriginal communities. Dr Mark 'Matt' Giancaspro noted: 

'The communication or intermediary partner model has major implications for rural and regional and Aboriginal communities. Participation in the legal process is often difficult for those living in remote areas, and this problem is compounded when those persons have complex communication needs that require higher-level support. Our goal is to ensure the voices of those in the regions are heard on this important issue.’

To assist its consultation, SALRI has released a short consultation video for the community and a more detailed video for practitioners

SALRI has also prepared a short Fact Sheet for the community and a more detailed Fact Sheet for practitioners.  

If you would like to take part, please send your written submission or comments via email to

Consultation closes on Friday 23 April 2021. 

SALRI CP video team
Tagged in South Australian Law Reform Institute, Research, Impact, News

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