The article ‘Justice is blind as long it isn’t deaf: excluding deaf people from jury duty – An Australian human right breach’ has won the inaugural Andrea Durbach Award for Human Rights Scholarship, which is accompanied by an award of $1000. All articles published in the Australian Journal of Human Rights in a given year are eligible, and recipients of the award are determined by the Editorial Board of the Australian Journal of Human Rights.
The authors of the article are Prof. David Spencer, Ms. Mehera San Roque, Prof. Sandra Hale and Prof. Jemina Napier, who have carried out a comprehensive research into deaf citizens as jurors since 2012 with the University of New South Wales, funded by an Australia Research Council Linkage Project.
Presently, deaf people cannot serve as members of the jury because the Jury Act in each state/territory prohibits the presence of an interpreter in the jury deliberation room as this would constitute a “13th person” in the room. However, the published research has shown that deaf people who use Auslan can perform just as well as other peers in mock trial cases and that competent and ethical interpreters do not interfere with the jurors’ deliberations.
‘Are deaf people equal citizens in Australia? No’, said Mr. Kyle Miers, Chief Executive of Deaf Australia, ‘unless the Jury Acts are amended to allow ‘reasonable adjustment’ in accordance with the Disability Discrimination Act, to enable deaf people to perform their role as a juror, then we will be equal in eyes of the law’.
‘Deaf people have long sought equality in Australia,’ said Mr. Todd Wright, Chairperson of Deaf Australia, ‘this award will help raise awareness about Deaf Australia’s Jury Rights for All campaign to achieve this realisation’.
The Australian Journal of Human Rights Editorial Board said: ‘This article presents rigorous and innovative research that links directly with important contemporary human rights law and policy questions. It is original, carefully crafted and clearly argued, deftly marrying legal and non-legal research methodologies. The authors contribute to a discussion of legal and policy reforms that would improve respect for human rights in an less-heralded, but important, area.’
The authors of the article have donated the prize money to Deaf Australia’s Jury Rights for All campaign and Deaf Australia wishes to congratulate the authors for their contribution and thanks the Editorial Board for recognising the authors’ contribution to this important human rights campaign.
On related notes: ACT Legislative Assembly passed new law on Tuesday this week that people with disabilities are no longer automatically exempted from jury duty in Canberra.
To donate to this campaign, please go to www.juryrightsforall.org.au.
About the Award:
The Andrea Durbach Award for Human Rights Scholarship was established by the Australian Human Rights Journal in 2017. The prize is name in honour of Professor Andrea Durbach, in recognition of her significant service to human rights. The prize is awarded annually to an author/s whose work has been published in the Australian Journal of Human Rights, and whose article reflects the values that have long resonated in Andrea’s career and scholarship. These include the courage to push the boundaries of human rights debates; the creativity to examine issues that cut across different academic disciplines and a desire to press for human rights accountability to ensure that the voices that are not always heard can be magnified.