+++ Intercultural justice
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Intercultural Justice

Protection of values

Cultural values make a society strong. The justice system protects these values and the courts derive their authority from this. Cultural values make a society strong. The courts protect these values and the courts derive their authority from this. If they fail to adequately protect these values, social turmoil will arise. This impairs the cohesion of society.

Our justice system protects the values of our Western culture. But Western values are not universally sanctifying. It is therefore questionable how courts should relate to values that minority groups in society experience as crucial. This question is important, as societies are increasingly multicultural.


Diversity of culture

There have always been fundamental cultural differences in countries like the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand between the prevailing Western culture and the cultures of indigenous peoples who live in those countries. It has become apparent in those countries that a rigid application of Western criminal law has increased rather than reduced social malaise, crime and addiction problems in indigenous communities, while confidence in the police and judiciary in those communities has decayed.


Australian Indigenous Sentencing Courts

Recommendations of a landmark report from 1990 in Australia have led to the creation by local governments and leaders of Aboriginal communities of intercultural courts that are consistent with the values of both the Western and the relevant Aboriginal culture. As there are strong cultural differences between Aboriginal peoples, many forms of Indigenous Sentencing Courts were created. They all have certain common characteristics.


Improving the relationship with justice

The judge cooperates with Aboriginal leaders (Elders). This cooperation creates a synergy between the formal power and the cultural value-based authority. Together, judges and Aboriginal Elders are committed to reducing social deprivation by helping Aboriginal offenders who have pleaded guilty to put their lives on track under their common control.

Other Aborigines are also closely involved in these courts:

an Aboriginal Justice Coordinator prepares the court hearings, and

Aboriginal Justice Workers work as mentors in the Aboriginal communities.


Stakeholders are heard

Family members and friends of the offender (sometimes from the victim as well) join the court hearings and take an active part in them. Their voice is heard whether solicited or unsolicited. They share what is on their hearts.


Justice builds a bridge

Cross-cultural cooperation within the justice system has a fraternizing effect between the cultures. Together problems can be solved more easily, more quickly, more effectively and in a sustainable way.


Responses from stakeholders

Aboriginal lawyer:

Courts like these are crucial to getting our communities back on the road.


Aboriginal Elder:

These courts provide a formal basis for the authority that the Elders have in our communities according to our old traditions. We have been deprived of this power by the colonization. Now that the government has given our traditional power a place in the system, we are able to create order in our communities in a way that is part of our culture.


Aboriginal Justice Coordinator:

Preparing the court hearings requires a lot of attention and care. But I do it with love for my people. Indigenous Sentencing Courts are very important to help my people out of the malaise.


Aboriginal Justice Coordinator:

Preparing the handling of cases requires a lot of attention, care and discretion. But I do it with love for my people. We work together here to help my people out of the malaise.



The wisdom and psychological insight of Aboriginal Elders is fascinating. It is always inspiring to cooperate with them to improve the living conditions in Aboriginal communities. A great deal of mutual trust has arisen.