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Foreword to First Edition

All Judges and Magistrates in Western Australia are required to take an oath or affirmation of office at the time of their appointment in which they undertake to

do right to all manner of people, according to law, without fear or favour, affection or ill will.

I have no doubt that the judicial officers of Western Australia genuinely do their best to fulfil that undertaking. However, our ability to ensure the equal treatment of all those who come into contact with the justice system of Western Australia is constrained by our ability to identify and appreciate the many and varied causes of disadvantage and inequality. Our task is to eliminate or ameliorate disadvantage and inequality without causing prejudice to other participants in the justice process. The best way of doing that is often neither self-evident nor intuitive - it often needs to be informed by specialised knowledge and experience.

An important first step in the direction of providing judicial officers with the information which we need to address the significant disadvantage of a substantial group within the justice system of Western Australia was taken in May 2002 when the first edition of the Aboriginal Benchbook for Western Australian Courts was launched. That important work was commissioned by the Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration. Its second edition was published in 2008. Priority was given to the subject of indigenous disadvantage because of the gross over-representation of Aboriginal people in the criminal justice system of this State.

However, it was clear that the information available to judicial officers on the subject of indigenous disadvantage needed to be augmented by a much broader range of information covering the many other sources and types of disadvantage that might be experienced by people participating in our justice system. For this reason, at my request, the Department of the Attorney General has undertaken a project aimed at augmenting the Aboriginal Benchbook with another Bench Book intended to identify and address the diverse ways in which people might be disadvantaged in their dealings with the justice system. The product of that project is this Bench Book, which should be read as a companion volume to the Aboriginal Benchbook. The Aboriginal Benchbook should remain the primary point of reference where issues concerning Aboriginal people are involved.

This Bench Book is modelled heavily on the Bench Book published by the Judicial Commission of New South Wales under the title Equality before the Law. I am very grateful to the Chief Justice of New South Wales, and the Chair of the Judicial Commission of NSW, the Hon JJ Spigelman AC, and to the CEO of the Judicial Commission, Mr Ernie Schmatt, for permission to republish material originally published in the Commission’s Bench Book.

The project committee formed to oversee the preparation and publication of this Bench Book has, since its inception, placed great value upon consultation with individuals and groups within the community who are in a position to provide information to judicial officers in respect of the many issues addressed in this Bench Book. With the assistance of the Commissioner for Equal Opportunity, Ms Yvonne Henderson, and her office, we have been able to identify many groups within the community who have volunteered a wealth of information and assistance which has been invaluable in the preparation of this Bench Book.

A list of those who have contributed in this way can be found in the acknowledgements section which follows this Foreword. Readers cannot fail to be impressed by the number, breadth and diversity of the organisations and individuals who took the time and made the effort to provide us with the benefit of their views. We have endeavoured to incorporate as many of those views in this Bench Book as possible. After all, the essential purpose of this Bench Book is to provide judicial officers with a perspective which they may not presently enjoy.

It is not practical for me to identify and thank the many people involved in this project from its inception in this Foreword. I would, however, like to express my particular gratitude to all the members of the Steering Committee, who invested considerable quantities of their personal time in reviewing and commenting upon chapters which had been drafted for inclusion in the Bench Book. I also acknowledge the many Departmental employees who contributed both in a formal capacity and informally to this project.

I would also like to particularly thank Dr Jeannine Purdy, who assumed a singular responsibility for quality auditing, checking and, where necessary, rewriting draft materials produced by a diverse group of authors. Because of that diversity of authorship, Dr Purdy was also responsible for ensuring a consistent and coherent structure, style and vernacular. Her invaluable and untiring contribution to this Bench Book inspires confidence in its accuracy and relevance.

The Bench Book has been prepared primarily for the use of judicial officers within Western Australia. However, it provides a rich resource for all interested in the redress of disadvantage, inequality and unfairness. It will be made available both in hard copy and electronically on the websites of the various courts of Western Australia and the Department of the Attorney General, and through those websites, to the public of Western Australia.

Much of the data and information contained within the Bench Book will change over time. I sincerely hope that resources will be made available to continually review and update the electronic version of the Bench Book. However, whether such resources will in fact be provided remains to be seen. Readers should approach the Bench Book on the basis that the data and information presented is the best available as at mid-2009, unless the text, footnotes or edition/update reference indicates a subsequent revision.

More broadly, it is my hope that this Bench Book will prompt renewed consideration of the practical ways in which judicial officers - and others - might go about doing “right to all manner of people, according to law”.


The Hon Wayne Martin
Chief Justice of Western Australia

Last updated: 1-Sep-2017

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