Reflecting on Community Development Practices: Improving Access to Justice by Working with Communities to Effect Change

Liz Curran, Alikki Vernon, Pamela Taylor-Barnett

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This article describes four Victorian legal and community-based projects which successfully engaged and empowered disadvantaged communities to participate in processes which made a difference in their lives. These communities experience social, cultural and economic disadvantage which impacts how they access justice and participate in decision making that affects their lives. The four case studies outline the community development approach taken by the authors working with a variety of clients from a community legal centre (CLC). The authors' engagement with these clients from various communities was not a part of a research project. However, this reflective practice account provides important lessons about the elements of engagement that can make for better relationships between community groups and legal and allied services to enable civil participation, empowerment, and to effect positive change. The authors come from a range of practice disciplines in law, education, dispute resolution, and conflict management. The article outlines how community legal education, conflict management training, capacity building, and law reform advocacy can enhance greater social participation of marginalised groups in governance as befits a participatory and deliberative democracy. These reflections are also considered within a body of literature, including an interactive and relational approach to democracy, justice and human rights. In reflecting on these specific community development projects, we aim to encourage and inform social agencies to work with communities to access justice and enable effective change. One of the reasons for this article is to document a range of projects and approaches that are rarely submitted to peer reviewed publications due to the time constraints and demands of those delivering the services in the community sector.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)37-88
    JournalFlinders Law Journal
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2017


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