Marginalized communities who do not trust the legal system can benefit from access to lawyers “on their side” placed within trusted health and social care settings, according to new research at Nottingham Law School examining the role of trust in a Health Justice Partnership.
Health Justice Partnerships were originally pioneered in Australia and aim to promote justice and social influences on health by placing lawyers within trusted community services.
The study focuses on the newly established Bagaraybang bagaraybang mayynygalang (BBM), which works with Aboriginal community members in the Northeast New South Wales and Victoria areas of Australia who experience poor mental health and well-being. It is available at SSRN Electronic Journal preprint server.
The project places lawyers from the Hume Riverina Community Legal Service with the Albury Wodonga Aboriginal Health Service (AWAHS) to provide free legal advice and assistance, and work with AWAHS staff to support client welfare.
The learnings from the study, which questioned clients and legal support staff, are relevant to all countries with communities experiencing persistent poverty, inequality, poor mortality rates and negative health and well-being.
With similarities to the Black Lives Matter movement, for members of the Aboriginal community questioned in the study, systemic racism means that most of them do not trust the law and rely on their bad experiences.
The findings also show a low level of knowledge about the law, with views that its role is when someone has “done something illegal” rather than protecting or enforcing rights. They also expressed concerns that by exercising their rights they risk retaliation against them by the authorities.
However, building trust is seen as key to participation, especially the need for lawyers to listen and “be real,” and for institutions to go beyond symbolism and make real efforts in their practice.
Showing respect, being approachable, using culturally appropriate and understandable language, and involving the community in decision-making were also seen as key factors in building trusting relationships.
The study also revealed a desire in the community to learn more about the areas of the law that they do not know can help them and to use the correct information in their community to prevent inappropriate actions by them or by the authorities who seek to exploit them.
It highlights the great need not only for access to a lawyer but also the need to build legal knowledge, capabilities, confidence, empowerment, and advocacy skills in the Aboriginal community and among “trusted intermediaries.”
Dr. Liz Curran, lead researcher and Associate Professor of Clinical Legal Education at Nottingham law School, part of Nottingham Trent University, said, “All over the world, marginalized communities are still heavily impacted in terms of their life outcomes, and many see the law as something to distrust, and as a hindrance, rather than a help.
“Participants in this study expressed distrust in all formal institutional structures and service delivery, and this distrust will be present in all communities facing discrimination.
“The expansion of Health Justice Partnerships around the world is essential to change this perception and empower people with knowledge. However, we can see from this research that lawyers must understand the community they work in, be open and transparent, and involve their clients in their practice and decision-making.”
The report is the first part of a three-year annual evaluation of the project.
Elizabeth Curran et al, 2023 First Research and Impact Evaluation Report of the Health Justice Partnership on Mental Health and Wellbeing (BBM): A Health Justice Partnership (HJP) of the Hume River Mother Community Legal Service & Al-Social Service Offering Legal Health & Health Services in Hume Riverina (HRCl. Emotional Wellness of Aboriginal People in Northeast NSW and Victoria, SSRN Electronic Journal (2023). DOI: 10.2139/ssrn.4507339
Provided by Nottingham Trent University
Citation: Research shows value of trust in providing legal support to marginalized communities (2023, July 21) retrieved on July 21, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-07-legal-marginalized-communities.html
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