Culture-Based Justice Architecture : Building Community Wellbeing through Deeper Cultural Engagement

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Law and the culture of law find their expression in the many facets of the law's institutions. One of the most visible of these is the architecture of the places in which the legal process is enacted. Through architecture it is possible to communicate widely variant cultural perspectives on the rule of law. In contemporary Australia, an advanced and successful democracy, Aboriginal families continue to experience grossly disproportionate incarceration rates in the justice and correctional institutional systems, often in demonstrably inappropriate environments. Most commentators agree that a significant contributing factor to overrepresentation in these institutions is the high degree of cultural loss that Aboriginal Australia has suffered, and continues to suffer. This paper argues that part of the solution lies in an acknowledgment of and engagement with Aboriginal culture where it persists as an evident and potentially viable feature of Aboriginal communities. Anthropologists, sociologists, Aboriginal advocates and linguists have furnished tools necessary to implement a culturally literate understanding in the endeavors of law reformers, architects and agents of economic development. Nevertheless there remains at political and key administrative levels, significant pockets of resistance to such an approach to reform. The author, a practicing architect specializing in the design of a broad range of facilities in cross cultural environments, draws upon successful examples of both built works and projects to demonstrate a proven approach to tackling the problem successfully. It is suggested that whilst the cultural circumstances of Aboriginal Australia are unique, the underlying principles of the approach advanced by this paper may be broadly applicable in many of the projects supported by the World Bank and others working towards the advancement of justice reform through the implementation of practical initiatives in communities.
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Kirke, Philip James. 2010. Culture-Based Justice Architecture : Building Community Wellbeing through Deeper Cultural Engagement. Justice and development working paper series;no. 10. © World Bank, Washington, DC. License: CC BY 3.0 IGO.
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