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Case Studies Families and Justice

Solon, (638 – 558)  widely considered the founder of our Justice and democratic systems, believed the family to be the bedrock of any successful society.  Occasionally Society may need to be called upon to intervene in inter or intra family disputes to resolve intractable issues in order to avoid families tearing themselves apart or causing inter generational feuds.  

Solon laid the foundation of Athenian justice and democracy.  He believed in the middle way, equity and straight justice.  Social peace depended on reasonable laws for nobleman and commoner alike and the jurisdiction bound to them.  The laws became known as Solonian due to his authority.

The largest number of his laws concerned family law which he believed to be the foundation of Athenian society; the permanence of the family.  He preferred the middle way in resolving disputes to continue the existence of the family.  Preventing violence and maintaining public order were stated purposes of law.

This topic area is dedicated to examining the role of the state in adjudicating polemic disputes when all other avenues appear to have failed.  It encompasses multiple aspects of Justice and how it impacts on families.  

Family courts could adopt the Hippocratic code of “do no harm”, lest the saying that “there is no family dispute so bad, that the intervention of the family court could not make it worse” applies to them.

The case studies include various ones taken from recent Canadian and Australian court systems.  Being born and raised in Canada, my formative and impressionable experiences make me feel inherently Canadian.  At the age of 30, I migrated to Australia for the next 45 years.  This gives me a vantage point of being an insider and Camusian outsider in both countries.  

Arriving in Australia in 1972, another American recent arrival commented that "it's like going back to the 1940's, but it seems to work".  Canada at that time was riding high in international stakes because of the strong progressive governance of Lester B Pearson and Pierre Trudeau.  Australia was emerging from a stultifying and stupefying culture of smug complacency.  It was the election of a firebrand, Gough Whitlam, that dragged Australia "kicking and screaming" into the 20th Century.

So many of Australia's reforms were appropriated from Canadian models.  

The entire Topic Area of Justice is 15 years overdue.  It is part of a procrastinated  support service for my students studying a book by Geoffrey Robertson, The Justice Gamewhich  records some of the landmark legal cases a young lawyer from Australia faced in his early days after graduating from Oxford in England from the early 1970’s to the mid 1990’s. 

The book chronicles some major Human rights cases that challenged the entrenched mind set of an ancient legal institution.  Dickens saying that the law is an ass - an idiot, preceded him by at least 200 years.  It is the very remoteness and privilege of the courts that gives some a false sense of entitlement.  Some have their heads so high up their own fundaments, they haven't seen daylight in years.  The only way to get them to extract cranium from sphincter is a swift kick up the back side - to get real.

A second feature in this topic area deals with Child Sexual Assault.  One of the many positive paradigm shifts of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse  is the increased sensitivity around the treatment of victims (survivors) especially in our courts being subjected to painful interrogation.  

Peter McClellan has reset the system by assimilating past trauma into the national psyche, making it acceptable to listen to the victims and believe the hurt, anger and pain and not allow it to be re-enacted in courts to feather the nests of unscrupulous desperate depraved lawyers.  

The adversarial system is well past its use-by date.  It relies on cross-examination - not to get at the truth but to cast doubt.  There is no such thing as absolute certainty.   Aggressive and withering interrogation can wear down the most hardened victims.  The ruse is one to instil fear; to gut and fillet victims. 

Carol Stingel, who won a case of being pack-raped by Aboriginal leader, Geoff Clark, was subjected to four days of grueling demeaning and gut-wrenching verbal assault attempting to find cracks in her story.  This left her psychologically  devastated. 

Evan Whitton tells of victims vomiting in the witness stand.  

Brutal and ruthless skewering of fragile witnesses on the stand is unconscionable. Conscientious Court Systems should not tolerate it and definitely not reward thugs and bullies who employ it.  

Figures of authority or hardened criminals are fair game.

We, the people, must ensure that that endemic culture is not allowed to raise its ugly head again.

This site is an interactive one and the author appreciates all feedback on errors of fact or perception; negative or positive.   Contact details above.


The entire Topic Area of Justice was 15 years overdue.  It is part of a procrastinated  support service for my students studying a book by Geoffrey Robertson, The Justice Game, which  records some of the landmark legal cases a young lawyer from Australia faced in his early days after graduating from Oxford in England from the early 1970’s to the mid 1990’s.  The book chronicles some major Human rights cases that challenged the entrenched mind set of an ancient legal institution.

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