Access To Justice In a Multicultural Society

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“Consider the issues that arise in regard to access to justice in a multicultural society.” Multiculturalism has been a significant factor in the progress and subsequent evolution of Australian societal values. The acclimatisation of immigrants and those of ethnic background to Australian lifestyle has been a cooperative undertaking, seeing an acceptance by both groups to embrace the values of each other to an extent where what can only be described as a true multicultural society has been formed in this country. However, within this process, the rigidity of certain Australian institutions has been exposed, the most prominent of which has been the courts. The laws dealing with those of ethnic, or non-English speaking backgrounds has seen tremendous controversy, particularly in regard to access and understanding of the operation of the legal system and the law itself. Although Australian society has formed a bridge to co-exist with surrounding cultures, not enough has been done to accommodate for this within the law itself. Ignorantia juris non excusat, or, ignorance of the law is not a defence, is a component of common law concerning the idea that someone who is not aware of their wrongdoing before the law can still be punished for there actions. When we qualify Australia as a multicultural society, this concept of ignorance represents a generalisation, which perhaps does not reflect an Australian society of modern times. Many ethnic groups from a variety of non-English speaking backgrounds represent a significant proportion of society. The ignorance of law rule could, in many circumstances, act rather insensitively towards members of these communities and could potentially penalize those whose activities could be interpreted as criminal without knowledge of their misconduct . In 1989, the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) was asked to look at the

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