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Eades D. Language and Disadvantage before the law. 2008.
Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://e-publications.une.edu.au/1959.11/2220
Language and Disadvantage before the law
Arguably the most difficult challenge for any legal system is to provide 'equal protection of the law' to everyone. In this chapter we have seen some of the social groups who experience disadvantage in the legal process, due in part to differences in language use. Sociolinguistic research has made some headway in the analysis of aspects of this disadvantage, which at the same time is being addressed to some extent by a number of practical initiatives in different jurisdictions. But much more remains to be done, in terms of both research and change to legal processes. Addressing language and disadvantage in the law - whether through research or law reform - requires an understanding of the complexities of multilingualism, as well as dialectal and cultural difference, and the needs of those who are not proficient in the dominant language variety. But further, it requires an understanding of the policies of disadvantage, and the rights of people whose difference from the dominant society plays a significant role in their participation in the legal process. Recent innovations in alternative legal processes which have been influenced by Indigenous people and practices in Australia, Canada and New Zealand give cause for optimism that the experiences of non-dominant social groups can have an increasingly positive impact in improving the provision of equality before the law.