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Aspects of communication between aboriginal people and representatives of white law

Ashforth, Teresa (1990) Aspects of communication between aboriginal people and representatives of white law. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Abstract

This thesis examines some of the means by which the discursive processes of White law can be said to disadvantage Aboriginal people in particular. It sees the legal system itself, by virtue of the hegemonic practice and rhetorical operations routinely engaged in by its various representatives, as being responsible for such an outcome. It suggests that a problem arises not only because of the difference between White and Aboriginal world views and ideology but also because of the privileging of the written over the spoken word in the regular chain of discourse in which Aboriginal people accused of breaking the law become involved. By tracing this chain of discourse, and by deconstructing some of the texts of the crucial discursive sites along the way, it endeavours to show that theirs is a disadvantage of such a special sort as to be in no small measure responsible for their over-representation in the Australian Criminal Justice System.

Chapter One - Saying and Doing - gives an overview of some of the specific ways in which the formation of assumptions by Whites about Aboriginal people and by Aboriginal people about Whites has determined the tenor of their interaction. By drawing on some well-established theories of communication and discourse analysis it endeavours to specify some of the potential risks attendant upon such interaction, both in a legal as well as in a discursive sense.

Chapter Two - Aspects of Evidence - explores some of the practical disadvantages experienced by Aboriginal people in relation to the evidence presented against them in court. It also attempts to assess some of the many attempts made by White legal authorities to counteract such disadvantages.

Chapter Three - Police Perspectives and Practice - goes into more specific detail regarding the background to negative police attitudes towards. Aboriginal people and the extent to which the modification of such attitudes Is or is not being adequately addressed in the context of contemporary police education.

Chapter Four - Positions and Positioning of Aboriginal People - examines some of the ‘White ways’ of speaking to and about Aboriginal people and notes some Aboriginal responses to, and perceptions of, such ways of speaking. It also scrutinises the way in which Aboriginal offences against White law can be not only stimulated by but also constructed by White discourse.

Chapter Five - Lawyers and Aboriginal people - looks at the situation facing lawyers in the context of their work with Aboriginal people. Again drawing on discourse theory, it endeavours, by analyses of two particular cases, to highlight some of the possible pitfalls, as well as the potential for success, in such work.

Chapter Six - Writing the Text - explores the genesis of, and examines in detail, a representative sample of the crucially-decisive written texts presented in court. It also records some ongoing and increasingly insistent complaints by Aboriginal people regarding their negative subjection to ‘legal discourse’. It finally concludes by setting into perspective, and suggesting alternatives to, some of the questionable practices which constitute the problem.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Humanities
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: repository@murdoch.edu.au. Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Hodge, Bob
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/51237
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