Supporting Justice


Lack of appropriate support, coupled with stigma and discrimination, exacerbates the overrepresentation of people with disability in the Victorian criminal justice system. This project intervenes to break this cycle of disadvantage by providing resources that help the justice sector work better with people with disability and achieve fairer outcomes.

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  • People with cognitive impairments are significantly overrepresented in the Victorian criminal justice system. 42% of male and 33% of female prisoners have an acquired brain injury, yet they make up less than 3% of the wider population. Lack of appropriate support, coupled with stigma and discrimination, perpetuates cycles of disadvantage. The client wanted: - to engage sector stakeholders and build shared understanding around the systemic issues, and see where they can take responsibility for making change. - an online resource to address the problem directly. The resource had to be suitable for justice professionals, people with disability, advocacy groups and support workers.

  • The project combined human-centred design and systems practice methods to produce two main outputs: a system map and an online resource. The system map shows how situations and events that affect people with disability in the criminal justice system have multiple causes, and helps justice professionals identify areas where an intervention could have significant impact and make systemic change. provides resources that fundamentally change how people with disability are treated in the criminal justice system. It helps lawyers, support workers and justice professionals support people with disability to have their needs addressed and their rights upheld and protected.

  • Post-project evaluation showed that participants gained empathy for people with disability in the justice system. One magistrate says he is asking new questions of people and finding out things he wouldn’t have otherwise, which has changed how he sentences people with disability. The resource has also become part of professional development training for Victorian lawyers. The project gave control back to participants with lived experience by allowing them to have their stories heard and to change the system that harmed them. The project’s success promoted human-centred design, self-advocacy consultants and systems practice across Victoria’s criminal justice system.

  • The system map shows where things are breaking down due to gaps and inconsistencies in service delivery across the network. It allows justice stakeholders to see where they have the power to create better justice outcomes for everyone. By building this depth of understanding first, we could design the online resource to intervene at the most impactful points. The resource’s highlight items are the ‘Effective communication with people with disability’ guide, the ‘Preparing for court’ client form, and a service directory. They help lawyers and magistrates spot the signs of disability, communicate appropriately, and refer clients and defendants to supporting services so they feel recognised, respected and supported by the system. The resource is inclusively designed for people with lived experience, carers, and justice professionals. This means people with disability can see and understand the guidance that is being provided to magistrates about them. Inclusive, cross-sector engagement was critical. Over multiple stakeholder workshops, four co-design workshops and three rounds of prototype testing, 36 representatives from the legal profession, courts, police, the judiciary, the disability support and advocacy sector, and 6 people with lived experience of disability collectively generated and iterated to improve outcomes for people with disability.