Law & Justice

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  • (2022) O'Connor, Jayne
    Thesis
    Indigenous women in Australia have remained one of the most at-risk demographics for sexual violence victimisation since colonisation began. Indigenous women have historically been marginalized and excluded from accessing justice for sexual violence through the legal system. Changes to the justice system, including incorporating some Indigenous-focussed practices in sentencing, have resulted in inadequate access to justice for Indigenous women sexual assault victims. Some women who have not been able to find justice or validation in the legal system have sought other avenues for redress, including social media activism. The MeToo movement is one of the largest social media activist movements to date to address the issue of sexual violence. The MeToo movement has been seen as a means by which victims can take control of the narrative around sexual violence and seek recognition and justice outside the courtroom. Millions of women globally have participated in MeToo, but the movement has also been subject to critiques about its lack of inclusivity and its inability to respond to intersecting forms of oppression and trauma. Through MeToo, women have revealed the legal system has fundamentally failed victims of sexual violence, especially Indigenous women. The thesis asks: What does the MeToo movement in Australia reveal about the differences and similarities in narrative and process between the criminal justice system (CJS) and social media regarding sexual violence allegations and the potential for social media to act as an alternative to the CJS? This thesis responds to this question with a focus on a disenfranchised sector of Australian society, namely Indigenous women. By synthesising theories from the frameworks of decolonisation and critical race feminism, the thesis applies critically analyses the phenomena of spectacle and performativity. The thesis reveals several ways by which social media activism replicates the patterns of exclusion and discrimination present in the legal system, leaving Indigenous women substantially excluded from two major avenues for redress of inaccessibility to justice and related grievances. The thesis identifies the replication of patterns of exclusion and discrimination across three contexts: society, the legal system, and social media activism. The thesis concludes alternative justice seeking methods will struggle to succeed while the foundations of colonisation and patriarchy persist. It also reveals three overarching themes, and four conceptual tensions present at the intersection of sexual violence against Indigenous women and social media activism. The themes are: (1) voice, narrative, and visibility; (2) agency and self-determination, and (3) transnational/transcultural phenomena. The tensions are: (1) law and justice; (2) the criminal justice system and MeToo; (3) platforms and targets; and (4) commodification and resistance.

  • (2021) Hodgson, Natalie
    Thesis
    This thesis explores the potential of international criminal law to resist state crime. Existing research recognises that law can provide civil society with methods and forums for challenging state power. This thesis aims to develop a greater understanding of the prospects and limitations of using law to resist state crime with a focus on international criminal law and the International Criminal Court (ICC). This thesis explores this topic through a case study of Australia’s offshore detention of asylum seekers. This thesis addresses four Research Questions: 1. How can offshore detention be characterised as state crime? 2. What aspects of offshore detention are formally criminalised under international criminal law? 3. To what extent can civil society access the ICC to resist offshore detention? 4. How can a criminological approach inform our understanding of the potential of international criminal law to resist state crime? To answer these questions, this thesis draws on criminological and legal methods. This thesis argues that offshore detention was a state policy of ‘degradation by design’; that is, offshore detention was a hostile environment designed to compel asylum seekers to ‘voluntarily’ return to their countries of origin. Using this criminological understanding of offshore detention, this thesis argues that aspects of Australia’s offshore detention policy are formally criminalised under international criminal law, constituting crimes against humanity. Thus, this thesis demonstrates how criminological knowledge can inform the interpretation of international criminal law in relation to state crime. This thesis recognises that there are difficulties in civil society accessing the ICC as a forum where state crimes might be prosecuted. Nonetheless, this thesis argues that international criminal law’s potential to resist state crime extends beyond prosecutions. International criminal law provides civil society with a normative language and communicative space for resisting state crime. By mobilising the stigma of international criminal law, civil society can send messages to local, national and international communities, expressing the illegitimacy of state conduct. Therefore, by combining knowledge from the fields of state crime and international criminal law, this thesis contributes to expanding existing knowledge of how law can be used by civil society to resist state crime.